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New $107M MD 85 interchange opens

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The $107 million Frederick gateway project opened in December. The new gateway to Frederick includes a new interchange at MD 85 (Buckeystown Pike)/East Street and I-70 and an extension of East Street. The improvements according to state officials will ease congestion and improve safety through the corridor as well as provide enhanced access to Frederick's MARC train station. Since the project was announced in 2005, roughly 500 jobs were supported during the construction.

"Frederick is the State's second largest city and its vitality is critical to Maryland's economic health," says Gov. Martin O'Malley. "This new interchange has a wide range of benefits. It supports the Bio-Technology Corridor, makes mass transit easily accessible, reduces traffic congestion on area roadways and provides the City of Frederick with a gateway that provides easy access to the downtown business district."

The interchange project is part of a multi-phase improvement project along the I-70 corridor. Improvements to I-70 and its supporting interchanges have been planned since the early 1980s, with SHA initiating several breakout projects over the years to advance the overall corridor improvements.

The I-70 corridor through Frederick County serves 80,000 to 100,000 vehicles each day. That range is expected to reach 100,000 to 140,000 over the next 20 years. With the completion of this major project, motorists will now use the MD 85/East Street interchange to access the City of Frederick from I-70. Over the next few weeks, the Maryland Department of Transportation's State Highway Administration (SHA) will open the new roadways and ramps to transition traffic to new traffic patterns.

"The number of stores and businesses in Frederick has increased in recent years, along with the number of people and the number of cars on the highway. While this is great for Frederick's economy, it has become increasingly difficult for Frederick's commuters," says Sen. Barbara Mikulski. "This new interchange will relieve congestion and greatly improve the commute along the I-70 corridor. I will continue to make Frederick's transportation needs one of my top priorities and a priority in the federal checkbook."

With the opening of the new interchange, SHA will close the ramps at the MD 355/I-70 interchange. The existing interchange on I-70 at MD 355 has short acceleration and deceleration lanes, very sharp curves and short merging lanes. Closing the existing interchange will improve safety through the corridor and also relieve congestion on MD 355 as motorists using the new interchange will exit I-70 onto MD 85 or East Street.

As part of the project, crews constructed three storm water management ponds and pumping stations to handle surface water. SHA placed synthetic material under the roadbed for added support and a special liner in drainage ponds. These measures help prevent sinkholes, which are common to the area.

A unique feature of the project not currently used anywhere else on state highways is the use of underground sensors to detect ground movement and potential sinkholes. If the ground shifts underneath the road or even the lined pond, an alarm will alert maintenance crews and geologists who will respond immediately to assess the situation and take appropriate action.

Although SHA is opening the interchange, additional work on the project will continue through spring 2010. SHA will not open Monocacy Boulevard extended between South Street and East Street until next year as additional paving and roadway tie-ins cannot be completed during cold temperatures. The contractor, Dewey Jordon of Frederick, will also complete a new railroad crossing at the intersection of Monocacy Boulevard and South Street.

As part of the project, SHA also will construct a new ridesharing lot. The new ridesharing lot located off New Design Road near Harry Grove Stadium will offer 105 spaces and seven handicap accessible spaces. SHA will open the new ridesharing lot next spring, weather permitting.

Source: State of Maryland
Writer: Walaika Haskins

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