Buckeystown Pike Reconstruction Brings Congestion Relief to Fredrick
Easing Growing Pains: The Reconstruction of Buckeystown Pike Will Add Capacity to Rapidly Growing Fredrick
Located approximately one hour north of Washington, D.C. in Maryland’s central region is the City of Frederick. Due to its proximity to the nation’s capital, there are people in the town who commute to work in D.C. Tourists also stay in the area. The area is highly developed and is continuing to grow. In the middle of this dense area is an infrastructure project on Buckeystown Pike.
Situated in Frederick County just outside of the Frederick city limits, the project is focused on Route 85 (which is also known as Buckeystown Pike) and Interstate 270. The project involves two components. Upon completion, it will provide congestion relief, increase pedestrian mobility, and improve safety.
The first component of the project is the reconfiguration of two bridges situated along I-270 and cross over Route 85 that have been rated poor. The bridges were built in 1954 and are being replaced with one single bridge. Each of the old bridges is a single span while the new one will be three spans.
“The new bridge will be significantly bigger,” says Mark Allen, a Project Engineer with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA). Allen, who’s in charge of the project and provides oversight of the contractor, adds, “The current structure is 36 by 85 feet while the new one will by 85 by 405 feet. The increased size will enable it to handle more traffic.”
It’s also expected that the new wider bridge will enable improved acceleration and deceleration lanes, which will improve safety and provide better access to Route 85.
Reducing Congestion and Protecting Pedestrians
The second component of the project will tackle the congestion and delay that regularly occur along Route 85. The work will take place over the course of approximately 1.5 miles. There are two through lanes on each side of Route 85. The actual number of lanes through the segment varies as there are some spots where a lane is picked up for a turning lane.
This portion of the route is particularly heavily traveled. I-270 has an average daily traffic of 115,000 while Route 85 has an average daily traffic of 50,000. “It’s a mixed-use corridor with commercial traffic from the north and south as well as hotel and residential traffic traveling south,” says John Concannon, District Engineer in District 7 for MDOT SHA. His office is responsible for administration of the construction of the project as well as oversight of various elements of roadway maintenance. “The area was recognized as a growth area, and there’s congestion and delays occurring as a result of the growth.
Adding to the congestion in the location is a major shopping mall that is adjacent to the construction site.
Route 85 is being widened from two to three lanes in each direction. Pedestrian mobility is also being addressed. Currently, there are no sidewalks on Route 85 under I-270. “There’s very little room for pedestrians and bicyclists,” says Concannon. As part of the project, full sidewalks are being added as are bike accommodations.
Increased Safety and Flood Protection
The interchanges along the route are being reconstructed. This is being done due to weaves and crashes that have occurred in the area. “There was a weave issue in between loop ramps, and we had to close them to eliminate this,” says Concannon. “As part of the project, the new interchange is a hybrid of a partial diverging diamond.”
One of the goals was to deal with the left turns. An operational analysis was performed to determine the most effective and efficient way to do this. Two of the cloverleaf route ramps have been removed. Currently, the left turns happen at a traffic signal. “In the diamond, the left turns will happen earlier,” says Concannon. “Commuters will use a parallel lane to gain ramp access.”
Other elements to help traffic flow along Route 85 include the addition of three new traffic signals.
The area is susceptible to flooding when storms occur, so storm water management is being addressed. “We’re installing a huge concrete domed shape storage facility,” says Allen. “It will store the water till it gets to a certain point at which time the water will be released to flow out to the rest of the system.”
As is typical for construction in dense areas, utility relocation is an aspect of the Buckeystown Pike project. Allen notes that a variety of utilities including gas and power have had to be moved. The major relocation is an underground Verizon vault. “It’s a main hub for Verizon and everything from north and south of the area comes into it,” says Allen.
Good Communication Keeps Project Moving
The project, which began in fall 2017, is expected to be complete in the fall 2022 right on schedule. Both Allen and Concannon credit the contractor, Joseph B. Fay Company, with keeping the project moving. “The contractor is very focused and engaged,” says Concannon. “Everybody involved is moving in the same direction and goal.”
Allen notes the monthly meetings and good communication as being the key to keeping on schedule. “In our monthly meetings, we identify challenges as well as solutions and resolutions to them,” says Allen. “The contractor has been good at looking ahead and recognizing challenges before they become significant.”
The project has a budget of $86 million. Financing is coming via the federal and state government. The county also kicked in $1.5 million, which went towards partial engineering.
Working on roads that are heavily trafficked inevitably means motorists and the public will be inconvenienced. However, MDOT SHA is striving to maintain existing capacity.
Keeping the public, as well as the surrounding businesses, informed of the major traffic shifts and other pertinent information is the job of MDOT SHA’s District 7 Community Liaison, Elizabeth Harris. “We do as much as we can to keep people informed,” says Harris. That includes sending out newsletters, press releases, monthly updates, and pictures. “Our goal is to make people feel like they’re in the loop about what’s going on.”
When the Buckeystown Pike project is complete, commuters will enjoy increased capacity and improved safety while pedestrians will have more mobility. For this congested area that continues to grow, the Buckeystown Pike project will ease the challenges that come with the commute.