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Frederick Co. sets transportation priorities

Sunday - 2/17/2013, 2:00am  ET

Road improvements to handle traffic from planned development and increased commuter bus capacity should be top transportation priorities, according to county planners.

The Board of County Commissioners is set to vote March 7 on the Annual Transportation Priorities Review. If it is approved, it will be submitted to the state to request funding for the top priorities.

Many requests are carried over from last year, but the county's planning commission has suggested three key changes in this year's transportation plan: a project on Md. 75, an increase in commuter service and an expansion of public-private funding partnerships.

The work to improve "shortcomings" of Md. 75 (Green Valley Road) could enter the planning stage, according to traffic engineer Ron Burns.

New developments are planned in the area, so the road must be improved to handle increased use, he said.

The project includes a new intersection with Md. 80, a new road between Md. 75 and Lewisdale Road near the Montgomery County line, and a proposed interchange with I-270.

The county will be asked to contribute $2 million to acquire land in the path of the new roads.

The priorities review traditionally emphasizes highway projects, Burns said, but this year the commission will push for improved bus service between Frederick and Washington.

"We are trying to be multimodal about it and not just be about highways," chief planner Jim Gugel said.

The commission's top transit priority is funding to increase connector route service to 30-minute intervals.

The commission will ask for funds to buy additional buses, and it wants buses to be allowed to drive on the shoulder during peak service hours.

Crowding on the buses has been a problem for several years, planners said.

"Folks in Urbana drive back to Monocacy (station), back to Frederick, to get to the bus earlier so they can get a seat," Burns said.

Planners also want to study the feasibility of running commuter buses from Washington to Frederick; they believe it would boost the local city's economy by making it easier for D.C. workers to get to Frederick.

Expanded funding cooperation with the city of Frederick, the State Highway Administration and local developers is also important, planners said.

The commission's overall top priority, the U.S. 15 and Monocacy Boulevard interchange project, is an example of increased emphasis on cooperative funding.

The City of Frederick and the county will contribute equally to the project; the SHA will also be asked to provide funds.

The county will look to developers that will benefit from the improvement to contribute land, Gugel said.

The project has already been designed and engineered and will cost $89.1 million to complete. It includes the interchange and a 416-space park and ride lot, according to the Annual Transportation Priorities Review.