Slow going on Md. 210: 6 years after work began, what’s the progress?

Drivers on a stretch of Maryland Route 210 have been dodging construction, ruining tires on rough road and waiting through delays at an improvement project that was supposed to take two years. Six years later, they’re still wondering when it will be finished, and state highway officials have some answers.

Work began in 2016 on the interchange where Md. 210 intersects with Livingston Road to the east and Kerby Hill Road to the west. It’s near lots of apartment buildings and plenty of pedestrians.

The end result will be an overpass allowing cross traffic to pass over, turning traffic to exit and through traffic to keep going without having to stop for a light. There are also paths for pedestrians and cyclists, which should help with safety on what’s called the area’s most dangerous road.

The project was supposed to finish in 2018 at a total cost of about $82.5 million. William “John” Gover, an assistant district engineer with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, told WTOP the work is now scheduled to finish by the end of August and cost $107.6 million.

Drivers just want it done.

“It’s terrible in the morning; it’s terrible late at night when they work on it,” said Kevin Selman, who lives in Temple Hills and often drives through there. “The most terrible thing about it is it’s taking forever.”

The work turned Selman’s drive to his son’s house in Fort Washington into an ordeal that, at times, lasted up to an hour. He also pointed out that the highway also serves commuters coming to D.C. and Virginia from nearby Charles County, Maryland. “You can sit in that traffic for like two to three hours, man.”

Start from the beginning

So what happened? State engineers say it started from the ground up.

Sean Campion, the division chief for Maryland State Highway’s innovative contracting division, said a survey of the ground at the outset of the project is where it all started to go wrong. “The contractor … set their baseline and all of their design files based off of this base survey. So when we gave them a base survey that had a bust in it, it obviously did result in some necessary redesign, and then some rework as well.”

That error wasn’t discovered until months of design work had already commenced and the crews were ready to start putting out orange barrels and churning dirt. So everything had to start over. That pushed other aspects of the project further down the line.

And when some of that work is seasonal and temperature-dependent, it only gets worse.

“Historically in the state of Maryland, asphalt plants shut down in the winter,” said Campion. “If that — we’ll call it ‘resequencing’ — kind of pushed some of the asphalt into winter months, we’re actually losing more time just because we didn’t have the availability to go out and pave.”

“If you’re ready to put asphalt down in November and you don’t have the temperatures, you have to wait until spring,” Gover said. “So that could delay a project every year by six months.”

For drivers who live along that highway, it’s been tough.

“I know it’s going to be good but it’s a little painful right now,” said Karina Ti, who often drives the road. “They have a lot of holes [in the road]; the construction is really slow. Very slow. It’s taking a long time.”

Maryland State Highway pointed out that there’s been progress in the last year: Some orange barrels remain, and there’s still some finishing touches that need to be applied, but the overpass is in operation. Drainage systems are in place, and traffic staying on Route 210 has one less light to stop at.

“I noticed they removed the traffic light,” said Ti. “So that part makes it faster for traffic.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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