Maryland 404 widening unveiled, bittersweet for safety advocate

WASHINGTON — Known as a Maryland beach route, an 11-mile stretch of Maryland Route 404 has been redesigned: transformed from a two-lane road to a four-lane divided highway.

For the thousands of drivers who take it to the Maryland and Delaware beaches each summer, the changes to Route 404 mean a smoother ride.

For residents of the Eastern Shore counties of Queen Anne, Talbot and Caroline, there’s an added benefit: safety.

According to state highway officials, 402 crashes and 12 fatalities were recorded along the stretch of road between 2005 and 2014. The upgrade includes a median separating eastbound and westbound traffic on the 11-mile section.

At a ribbon-cutting Monday for the redesigned section of Route 404, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was joined by Marie Freeman, whose 10-month old daughter Brianna was killed in a crash on the road in 2000.

For Freeman, who has advocated for safety improvements since her daughter’s death, the opening of the roadway was bittersweet.

Freeman said her daughter had been killed in a crash just east of Monday’s ribbon cutting.

“Her first day of kindergarten, and graduating with the class of 2018 — events and celebrations that many people cherish, were not—are not — to be for me.”

She congratulated state officials on the $158 million project.

“State highway and three contractors delivered what we had waited for since the ‘50s in a single construction season.”

Referring to Freeman’s daughter, Hogan told the advocate, “Your efforts to honor her life will help us to save the lives of others.”

State highway officials said that during peak summer travel periods, Route 404 carries more than 20,000 vehicles each day. By 2035, they project that number could jump to 26,900.

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