State airs I-95 projects for traffic flow, repairs

Baltimore, Harford residents glimpse future

June 29, 2007|By Jenny Hopkinson | Jenny Hopkinson,sun reporter

Charles Scheper got some good news yesterday.

The Rosedale resident was worried after hearing reports that an overpass was going to be built near his house as part of an effort to relieve congestion on Interstate 95.

"What can I do?" said Scheper, who lives on Kenwood Road. "It's a billion-dollar project."

But after reviewing maps and talking with project managers, he discovered that his home would not be affected.

With construction already under way near Scheper's house, the Maryland Transportation Authority gave the public the opportunity to see details of that project, as well as several others that will shape the future of I-95.

The "open house" at the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County focused on six projects to improve traffic flow and safety on the stretch of the highway that runs through Baltimore and Harford counties. Residents were invited to question project managers and engineers.

A similar event was held in Harford County on Tuesday, and about 200 people attended. The work on I-95 is being done to repair aging infrastructure and ease congestion, said Maryland Transportation Authority spokeswoman Kelly McCleary.

In 2005, 165,000 cars a day drove the seven-mile section between state Routes 43 and 152. By 2035, that number is predicted to grow to 231,000, according to Maryland Transportation Authority statistics.

"We are trying to plan for the future and make sure I-95 can accommodate future traffic," McCleary said.

I-95 stretches almost 2,000 miles along the East Coast from the Canadian border at Houlton, Maine, to Miami. About 110 miles of the highway run through Maryland.

Work has already begun in some places.

The revamping of the I-895 interchange and the addition of express toll lanes up to Route 43 will be finished in 2011. When the $1 billion project is completed, these lanes will be the first of their kind in Maryland. The toll price will vary depending on the time of day, and the state is considering eventually extending them into Harford County.

Farther to the northeast, construction will begin this summer on two interchanges in Harford County. The project will improve the capacity and safety when driving from I-95 to Route 24 and Route 24 to 924.

Still farther up the road, a three-year project to fix the surface of the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge will start in the fall. The 67-year-old bridge, part of U.S. 40, crosses the Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Perryville. The current roadway on the bridge is the original and has lasted twice as long as most bridge surfaces.

The open house also featured projects still in the planning stages. A study to increase the capacity of 16 miles of I-95 between White Marsh and Aberdeen may result in improvements several interchanges between Routes 43 and 22.

Preliminary redevelopment plans for the two I-95 travel plazas also were available yesterday. The state wants to completely rebuild the 35-year-old Maryland House and the 45-year-old Chesapeake House, and extend parking lots for cars and trucks.

Pat Royal, a Baltimore County resident, said that the addition of express toll lanes and updating interchanges would make a "positive difference" to the highway.

"It would seem they are taking a very active role in making transportation more efficient," she said.

However, not everyone was happy with the transportation agency's plans for the interstate.

Joe Scheuerman, a Rosedale resident, said that the highway was getting too big and the state should look in to building a parallel road to take traffic off the interstate. Adding extra lanes will only make the problem worse.

"A big road equals big accidents," he said.

jenny.hopkinson@baltsun.com

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