‘Disaster’: Prince George’s Co. leader decries latest delay for decadeslong road project

Maryland transportation officials are doing a virtual road tour of the state, checking in with localities, and on Thursday, they got an earful in Prince George’s County about a new delay for an already decadeslong project.

The intersection of Maryland Route 4 (Pennsylvania Avenue) at the Suitland Parkway is plagued by traffic congestion that only promises to worsen with added area development.

“This has been a disaster,” Prince George’s County Councilman Derrick L. Davis said of the project, pausing between each syllable of the word “disaster” for added emphasis.

Davis said the project concept extends back to March 1996. It moved through environmental assessment in 2000, planning was done in 2004, design plans completed in 2007, and construction was scheduled to start in 2008. The new intersection was supposed to be ready for traffic by 2011.

The timeline for completion now is projected to be the fall of 2023, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration website that said the project is 30% done.

“It leaves me with a lot of fear and trepidation for the future,” Davis said of recently learning the state will be addressing utility issues at the site with a new contract awarded to a new contractor.

“Councilman, I sympathize, and I have the same frustration you do,” State Highway Administrator Tim Smith said. “That project has not gone well; we have significant utility impacts.”

The project is near Joint Base Andrews, and Smith said there have been utility problems near Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade.

“What we’re finding is, anytime where we’re near a significant military base, or a functional base, we have these type of risks,” Smith said. “We want to move forward with the design that’s looking at existing data that addresses your concerns about the new traffic patterns in the area, as well as your economic development needs.”

Lack of communication from the state about project developments also was an issue raised by Davis.

“Just finding out — imagine me then turning to our department of Public Works and Transportation, and they’re looking at me with the same level of shock and dismay,” he said. “Seeming back at square block one — it’s harrowing.”

Smith pledged that lines of communication would open “much further than they had been.”

Describing multiple road projects in his district as worrisome, cumbersome and long-standing, Davis said the words “shocked” and “horrified” don’t clearly state the level of his concern about the potential impact on economic development and building planned along the Route 4 corridor. Other nearby road work, including the Suitland Parkway project, are also experiencing issues.

Also at the Prince George’s County Council hearing, Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg I. Slater told Davis that the state is committed to seeing the Suitland Parkway/Route 4 project through. It’s still being funded, despite budget constraints, and the money won’t be withdrawn.

“I know that’s an important project not only for the traffic flow but also, the economic development in that region,” Slater said.

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