Single Point Urban Interchange. Red marked properties would be taken
The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has settled into two potential options for upgrading St. Mary’s County’s busiest intersection: MD 4/235. The intersection upgrade, for now is part of the larger Thomas Johnson Bridge project and upgrades to MD 4 on both sides of the bridge. The total estimated project cost is $800 million; no monies are budgeted for construction. The intersection and road improvements could be made separate projects from the bridge.
Deputy Director of Public Works and Transportation John Groeger gave an update on the intersection options to the St. Mary’s County Planning Commission on Monday. Groeger said the two options under consideration are:
·A flyover of Route 235 from southbound Route 4 that would take morning commuters to the base onto Route 235.
·A single-point urban section that would tunnel MD 4 under Route 235. It would look similar to an intersection at Route 5 and Allentown Road in Clinton.
Groeger said the state was ready to choose the flyover option because it was the least costly and would involve the taking of fewer properties. For instance that option would involve the taking of the WAWA gas station and convenience store and an office building next to it.
Groeger said his office questioned some of the assumptions that led to the state honing in on the flyover option. With that option, people desiring to stop on their way to work at either WAWA or the Starbucks just down the road wouldn’t be able to use the flyover because in that option they would be precluded from making a right hand turn off Route 235.
Instead those coffee and gas seekers would have to go to a traffic light and make a left turn onto Route 235 onto a separate right turn lane. Groeger said the state statistics minimized the number of people who would do that. He said they should sit at the intersection and view the commuter habits. Groeger’s concern has caused the state to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate the two options.
The planning commission had asked Groeger to make the presentation after they were unable to get state representatives to attend a meeting at which the proposed St. Mary’s Marketplace commercial development was discussed. That development, which incorporates the existing Bay Center and the former trailer park to the rear, takes up one quadrant of the 4/235 intersection.
St. Mary’s Marketplace plans call for the Bay Center to be demolished and a right of way along Route 235 to be dedicated to the state for highway improvements. Planning Commission member Merl Evans asked Groeger if that land was critical now or in the future to the state’s plans. Groeger said perhaps the availability of land in one of the four quadrants of the intersection might get the state to reconsider that as an option.
Planning commission member Hal Willard said the intersection was critical. “I hope everybody and come into a room and everybody comes out together (on a preferred option).”