Maryland DOT Corrects Dangerous Intersections with MD 404 Widening
Not wanting motorists to live through another holiday season on congested, two-lane MD 404 (Queen Anne Highway/Shore Highway), the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration fast-tracked the 11.2-mile dualization project and with a dedicated team of engineers and contractors completed the project months ahead of expectations.
"This was an incredible undertaking to have it open a couple of days before Thanksgiving," says Bret Hadzimichalis, Assistant District Engineer for Construction in the District 2 of MDOT.
Motorists on MD 404, from U.S. 50 to the Denton Bypass, have dealt with congestion and unsafe intersections for years. About 16 percent of the 18,000 vehicles that travel MD 404 daily are commercial trucks. Vehicle traffic is higher in the summer. The road provides access to Delaware's beaches and movement of farm vehicles in the rural counties of Caroline, Queen Anne's and Talbot counties. By 2035, average daily traffic will increase to 21,900 vehicles a day and up to 26,900 vehicles during summer months.
"We have had a number of crashes and fatalities over the years," Hadzimichalis reports. "There has been a need to get that corrected."
The state first considered widening MD 404 in the 1950s, and some areas received widening over the years. But having the road go from two lanes to four to two again proved problematic, and the SHA realized it needed to be uniform.
A citizen advocacy group, Citizens for Transportation Emergency Action for Maryland (C-TEAM) pushed for improvement. Marie Freeman, the mother of a child who died in an accident on the road, spearheaded the C-TEAM and worked with the department to secure funding to make the road safer for others.
Getting the Job Started
SHA decided to use a design-build delivery method to speed construction. Hadzimichalis expects if the project had been let traditionally, crews would still be working on it.
"That was the fastest way for us - get a contractor on board and design as we go," says Hadzimichalis, adding that the road would not have opened by Thanksgiving if it had not used design-build.
State funding for the $158 million project was allocated from the state's 2015 landmark $1.97 billion Transportation Investment in Highways and Bridges. At the opening of the road, Governor Larry Hogan called the dualization the top priority project for Caroline, Queen Anne's and Talbot counties.
"For decades improvements to this vital corridor were promised but never delivered," Hogan said. "Our administration heard your calls for action, and we are actually cutting the ribbon on this completed project."
SHA awarded the design-build contract to MD 404 Corridor Safety Constructors - a joint venture of Wagman Heavy Civil of York, Pennsylvania; David A. Bramble, of Chestertown, Maryland; and Allan Myers of Worcester, Pennsylvania, in April 2016. Construction began that summer, and as portions of the new roadway were constructed, traffic was switched on and off to allow work to occur within other portions. This continued up until November 21, 2017, when 404 Corridor Safety Constructors met the target milestone to dualize the road. Although work will continue through summer 2018, the construction team earned a $5 million bonus for meeting the Thanksgiving dualization goal.
"We would not have gotten done on Thanksgiving without the collaboration and cooperation," Hadzimichalis says. "When we ran across a problem, all sides gave and took for the sake of what was in the best interest of the project and create a win-win for everyone. The entire organization was committed."
The construction, design and ownership team tried to hash out solutions to any potential problems a month ahead of time. Throughout the job, MD 404 Corridor Safety Constructors had multiple crews on site, and everyone pulled in the same direction. Crews worked 24/7 to keep the project moving forward.
"Every time you would drive through, you would see a different landscape, because of the speed, equipment and dirt flying," Hadzimichalis recalls. "It was a sight to behold."
MD 404 Corridor Safety Constructors worked through the winter of 2016-2017, even paving a base course in January 2017 with favorable temperatures. The team used GPS equipment for its accuracy and speed, but the rest of the equipment was standard.
"It is what you would expect to see but on a massive scale," Hadzimichalis says. "Paving was like a carefully choreographed circus"
The road passes through a flat area with drainage concerns. SHA installed drainage control to prevent flooding on the road. During construction, the department used unmanned aerial vehicles to photograph the road for environmental inspections.
Hadzimichalis called it "a big environmental job with a little bit of asphalt going through it."
The SHA replaced at-grade crossings with J-turns, a dedicated left separated by a concrete median and Maryland T intersections. Access was closed to some turning movements across full lanes of traffic. Engineers coordinated with the farm community to ensure farm vehicles could get through the new intersections, which required some fine tuning.
The new lanes were built adjacent to the existing road, so except for pipe crossings, the contractor kept the old road open. Motorists were only affected for one summer. SHA did its best to keep people informed about the progress. "We tried to keep people in the loop," Hadzimichalis says.
Motorists can now drive on a four-lane divided highway with a 34-foot median in between the eastbound and westbound lanes. The road also has new shoulders. New service roads and shared driveways were constructed to reduce the number of entry/exit points along MD 404. Some additional drainage work, signs and message boards continue under way.
"We showed we could get it done," Hadzimichalis recalls. "It was done because of the efforts of a lot of good people."