Maryland SHA Funds Final Phases of 38-Mile US 113 Project
Completion of the widening of U.S. Highway 113 to a four-lane divided highway for the entire 38-mile stretch in Maryland from Pocomoke City to Delaware is now on the horizon, following Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's announcement this spring of plans for the final two construction phases to move forward. The $136.8 million investment in U.S. 113 projects in Worcester County will address what is considered the county's number one transportation priority, resulting in improved safety and reduced traffic congestion along this major route.
The funding for the final phases of the U.S. 113 project is part of a $1.97 billion investment in highway and bridge improvements planned in Maryland, with projects addressing economic development, repaving needs, safety improvements, bridge repairs, and other issues. In announcing the funding for the U.S. 113 project, Governor Hogan said, "This roadway has a long history of neglect and deteriorating safety conditions. Completion of this project will make improvements that are critical to reduce traffic and help ensure the safety of people headed to work and the thousands of tourists and vacationers who visit this area every year."
The 4.6-mile, $50.4 million Phase Three project that widens the roadway from Massey Branch to Five Mile Branch Road is currently under construction, and is about 25 percent complete. The $86.4 million Phase Four project to complete improvements for 4.3 miles from north of MD 365 to Five Mile Branch Road is slated to go to construction next year, with completion scheduled for 2019.
Connecting Two States
The present-day U.S. Route 113, a spur of U.S. 13, runs for 74 miles from Pocomoke City, Maryland to Milford, Delaware, where it connects with Delaware Route 1. Together, these two roads form one of the major north-south highways along the Delmarva Peninsula, providing a critical connection for through and local traffic, including recreation trips. U.S. 113 is the primary north-south highway in Worcester County, Maryland - the site of Phases 3 and 4 of the widening project. The route also intersects several highways that lead to the resorts along the Atlantic Ocean coast.
U.S. 113 was built along the corridor of an 18th century post road that connected the Delmarva Peninsula with Wilmington and Philadelphia. In 1909, the old post road was designated one of the original state roads established by the Maryland State Roads Commission, leading to the highway being improved as an all-weather route. In Delaware, the highway became part of the DuPont Highway, constructed as a result of the philanthropy of Thomas Coleman DuPont. The DuPont Highway spurred economic growth in the tourism and agriculture sectors in the region - growth that resulted in heavy traffic. The highway was widened in both Delaware and Maryland in the early 1930s and again in the late 1940s.
The first project to expand U.S. 113 to a divided highway was in Dover in the 1950s, and by the late 1960s much of the route in Delaware had been expanded. A bypass around the town of Berlin completed in the mid-1950s became the first segment to be expanded to a divided highway in Maryland. Additional expanded segments were constructed beginning in the 1970s and continuing into the early 2000s.
Increased Population, Heavier Road Use
The United States 2000 Census showed Worcester County experiencing the third fastest population growth in Maryland, at 32.9 percent, between 1990 and 2000. In addition, U.S. 113 is a major gateway for summer vacationers heading to two very popular Maryland beaches just a few miles east of the highway.
According to the Maryland Department of Transportation's State Highway Administration (SHA), the highway began to realize a decrease in reliability in terms of congestion and safety issues, due to a significant increase in average daily traffic - particularly during the summer months. The road also has significant truck traffic volumes and there has been an increase commercial and residential development adjacent to U.S. 113. Today, over 13,000 drivers travel U.S. 113 daily during the summer. By 2035, that number is expected to climb to over 27,000 drivers in the summer.
Historically, this corridor had a troubling safety record. From 1980 to 1995, U.S. 113 in Worcester County experienced a much higher annual fatal accident rate than other similar highways within the state of Maryland as a whole, and the northern portion of the roadway also demonstrated a higher injury accident rate and overall accident rate than the state as a whole.
Splitting North and South
To address these issues, the SHA began a multi-phase improvement of the U.S. 113 corridor to upgrade U.S. 113 from a two-lane, undivided highway to a four-lane divided highway. The corridor was broken into the Northern Study area and the Southern Study area. The Northern study area encompassed U.S. 113 from north of Berlin to the Delaware State Line and was completed in 2003. The Southern Study Area encompassed the area from south of Snow Hill to south of Berlin.
The southern Study Area was broken into several projects:
· Phase 1: U.S. 113 Business (Market Street) to north of MD 365 (Public Landing Road), 3.7 miles. Completed and opened to traffic in December 2006. Total cost: $19 million
· Phase 2A: Hayes Landing Road to north of Goody Hill Road, 2.5 miles. Completed and opened to traffic in October 2009. Total cost: $18.9 million
· Phase 2B: North of Goody Hill Road to north of Massey Branch, 1.75 miles. Completed and opened to traffic in May 2012. Total cost: $19.7 million
· Phase 3: North of Five Mile Branch Road to south of Massey Branch, 4.6 miles. Construction Underway. Total cost: $50.4 million
· Phase 4: Five Mile Branch Road to north of Public Landing Road, 4.3 miles. Fully Funded for Construction. Total Cost: $67.44 million
Phase 5, completed in 2013, installed a new traffic signal at the U.S. 113/MD 12 Interchange in Snow Hill as an interim improvement. Construction of an interchange at this intersection is not currently funded for construction.
Each of the phases has presented a unique set of challenges. "In recent weeks, the Verizon strike has had minor impacts on the project," comments David Phillips, SHA Design Project Manager. "Our contractor was able to shift to other areas of the project to keep it moving."
Adds Charlie Gischlar, SHA Public Information Officer, adds, "Weather is always a challenge. Recently, we have had several weeks of on and off rain. SHA was able to offset the wet weather by shifting to other aspects of the work that isn't weather critical, such as clearing. Additionally, avoiding or minimizing impacts to sensitive environmental and culturally significant areas during the planning and design phases is something that SHA strives for."
With its importance as a regional arterial highway, through an area with dramatic population and traffic growth, and considering its history of congestion and traffic incidents, U.S. Highway 113 has earned its status as Worcester County's top transportation priority. As Phillips comments, "Once the final phases of widening in Worcester County are completed by 2019, drivers will enjoy a safer, more efficient ride throughout the entire corridor."