Every year, MDOT officials present a draft of their six-year Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) during a tour of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.
“We have decided to reignite the decision for the Oakland bypass,” Ports told local residents last week. “We’re going to look at a practical-design approach to try and save money.”
He said the decision was made after State Secretary Peter Rahn met with Oakland officials recently to discuss the project. Ports indicated that Rahn used the practical-design approach when he served as New Mexico’s transportation secretary.
“We’ll have more details coming soon,” Ports said about the bypass project, which is listed in the CTP draft.
The 2.4-mile $10 million initiative had been in limbo for several years because of state funding issues. The project, which would reroute U.S. 219 away from downtown Oakland and through a residential area, has received both positive and negative responses from local residents during MDOT tour meetings for numerous years. It has also been on the “wish list” that various Garrett County commissioner boards have presented to state officials at those sessions. This year was no different.
Director Deborah Carpenter, Garrett County Department of Planning and Land Management, reviewed the current board’s list of priorities, which pertain to planning, safety, system preservation, sidewalk and streetscape projects, trail and pedestrian projects, transit and regional initiatives. The Oakland bypass tops the list in two of those categories.
“Our number one planning and number one safety priorities remain the same as last year,” she said, “and both involve properly directing truck traffic away from a vital community center, Oakland.”
Under planning, the director indicated, a truck corridor feasibility study is needed to provide a broader perspective. It would analyze the volume and flow of truck traffic that currently exists, identifying routes that were not designed for such traffic and recommend alternatives.
“The number one safety priority, the Oakland bypass, has a municipal focus and looks specifically at detouring trucks outside of Oakland,” Carpenter said.
She also noted that the county’s number one regional priority is the relocation of U.S. 219 North near Grantsville. The goal of the two-state project is to connect the Appalachian Development Highway System from Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, to Interstate 68.
“SHA (State Highway Administration) is progressing with the $72.2 million upgrade and relocation of U.S. 219 from north of I-68 to Old Salisbury Road,” Ports reported.
“The project includes the replacement of the existing intersection at I-68 entrance and exit ramps with a roundabout.”
He anticipates construction will begin next spring and be completed in the summer of 2021.
Commissioner Paul Edwards commended Ports, other highway officials, and Gov. Larry Hogan for moving the Rt. 219 North project forward.
“That started in the ’60s,” Edwards said about the initiative. “It’s been talked about for decades, and we certainly thought that it never was going to happen.”
David Moe, Garrett County Development Corporation, also thanked MDOT and SHA for “the movement.”
“That’s a fantastic project,” he said. “It’s moving with lightening speed, in my opinion, when you consider all of the environmental and historical possibilities.”
He also thanked state highway officials for reinstating the Oakland bypass project.
“In my opinion, it’s needed,” Moe said.
He called trucks traffic on U.S. 219/Third Street through Oakland, which has parking on both sides of the street, a “nightmare.”
“The truck relocation project for (U.S.) 219 is imperative for the growth of this community,” Moe said.
Mountain Lake Park resident Debby Ward disagreed. She was a member of a group called Garrett Countians For Smart Growth, which helped educate the public about the project and actively opposed the initiative for well over a decade.
Ward told Ports she was “discouraged” to hear that the bypass is being reconsidered. As at past MDOT meetings, she questioned the need to reroute traffic through a residential area for safety reasons.