FREDERICK, Md. — It’s been years in the making but shovels are in the ground for a project that will add a new interchange at U.S. 15 and Monocacy Boulevard.
Frederick County has made the project a top priority for many years, but the recession put plans on hold. Now it’s back on track with money from the gas tax increase passed a few years ago in Annapolis.
“We can’t have projects like this without the money to do it. But it’s important to have this and this is where our gas tax money goes. It’ll be a big boost for Frederick,” says state Sen. Ronald Young, D-Frederick.
Leaders emphasize that the $59 million project will ease congestion near Fort Detrick, which is the largest employer in the county and added more jobs during base realignment. There are more than 10,000 employees with nearly 15,000 cars going into the base each day. The federal government is building a new gate at Nallin Farm to accommodate the growth.
“This interchange will take the traffic off U.S. 15 in a more direct route to that new gate. It was really important for us to be able to move people, products and services on and off the base,” says Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner.
The new interchange will also connect to a bypass being built to avoid the City of Frederick and save drivers time.
“Traffic in the city right now almost comes to a screeching halt during peak times in the morning and the evening,” says Del. Carol Krimm, D-Frederick.
“This project will help unload traffic congestion, which is one of the top concerns we hear. By providing an east-west bypass to the north of the city, it will certainly help with congestion,” says Del. Karen Lewis Young, D-Frederick.
There is also a safety component to the new interchange. Drivers attempting to make a left off U.S. 15 onto Monocacy Boulevard or Hayward Road have to yield to oncoming highway traffic. There are no traffic lights and no exit offramps. Trying to cross the highway to get to a side street can be dangerous.
“As you know, this area has had a long history of accidents. This interchange will improve safety in this area,” says Krimm.
Nearly 45,000 drivers travel through this area each day and that number is expected to grow over the next 20 years, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.
The project will also include a 400-space park-and-ride lot that will connect to MTA Commuter buses — taking cars off the road, Krimm says.
The highway administration will install work zone speed cameras next month into the corridor. Under Maryland law, work zone speed cameras operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Drivers traveling 12 mph or more over the posted speed limit will get a $40 ticket in the mail. There will be a warning period before live tickets are issued at the end of September.
The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2018.