While no funding is currently available for construction, a “practical design” study is being developed.
As in previous years, the 2.4-mile bypass issue was discussed during MDOT’s annual meeting with the county commissioners and local residents Friday morning at the courthouse.
Deputy Transportation Secretary R. Earl Lewis Jr. and five other MDOT and State Highway Administration officials attended the event to answer questions and present highlights from their 2020-25 Consolidated Transportation Program.
Deborah Carpenter, director of the Garrett County Department of Planning and Land Management, said the Oakland-requested bypass continues to be the county’s No. 1 priority in the evaluation phase of major transportation projects.
“We understand that the design is almost complete on that,” she said. “You’ve been working on that for a couple years. But we also understand that construction funds are not available.”
Carpenter asked MDOT officials to address the issue in their comments.
“You’re right,” Lewis said. “There is no construction money right now. The capital program is very, very tight, especially given the capital funding that we’ve had to allocate for WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) for the coming years.”
He said the plan process would continue and be kept in the queue like many other projects across the state until funding is available.
Commissioner Jim Hinebaugh asked Lewis if he meant there was no funding in the CTP 2020-25 timeframe.
“That is correct,” the deputy secretary said.
Jason Ridgway, deputy administrator of MDOT SHA, indicated results of an evaluation review, which includes a practical design and an environmental study, of the bypass were being finalized.
“We will be providing information on the results of that as we compile it by the end of the year,” Ridgway said.
Carpenter also asked Deputy Secretary Lewis to address a local interstate signage issue.
“It has come to our attention that there are some signs that have been removed from I-68 on Negro Mountain,” Carpenter said. “And there’s some confusion as to who did this and why.”
“It was us, in fact, that took the signs down,” Lewis said. “We know that it’s an important piece of local history honoring an early American hero. We also know that some people think it’s inappropriate.”
According to one theory, the hero’s name was Nemesis, an African-American frontiersman who was killed during a French and Indian War battle.
“Our commitment is to work with stakeholders, including you and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, to determine the best way to fulfill our mission and to help share this tract of Maryland history,” Lewis said.
He indicated an “appropriate way” to honor the mountain would be developed, which could mean placement of new signs.