WORCESTER CO., Md. - It's been a long time coming for Worcester County.
US Route 113 is a four-lane divided highway except for the approximately five-mile section between Snow Hill and Berlin. On Wednesday, the Maryland State Highway Administration laid out their plans to complete the project in two different phases.
"We should have had this years ago," says Tom Henman, a member of the Newark Fire Company and resident in Newark, Maryland.
Phase three would widen Route 113 from a two-lane undivided highway to a four-lane divided highway between north of Massey Branch to north of Five Mill Branch Road, and phase four would do the same between Five Mill Branch Road to north of MD 365.
"We have this five mile or so section that isn't done yet, so you go four lanes all the way from Delaware then two lanes then four lanes," says David Phillips, project manager for phase three of Route 113. "Really that connectivity is almost in itself an issue, because people are expecting those four lanes and then you're funneling them down into two lanes."
The highway will also incorporate "access controls," which Phillips says is essential for the road's safety.
"We're doing various access roadways off to the side. A lot of people are making left turns to get to driveways right off the roadway or various entrances right off the roadway," says Phillips. "There was really no containment of access, everybody was just kind of putting on their blinker and stopping and they were getting rear-ended."
However, there is one part of the project that is not sitting well with many residents. State highway officials are planning to put "j-turns," which are essentially u-turns that will turn away from the intersection at Langmaid Road in Newark. Phillips says they looked at the option of putting a stop light, but the intersection did not meet certain engineering requirements.
Some residents say it will cause major problems for those who live on the road, including firefighters who are concerned about delays in response time, and poultry farmers who need to transport chickens.
"We're going to have to drive about a half mile north to make the u-turn up there to come back to get across the road we normally would have went across to get to the firehouse," says Henman. "That's totally unacceptable."
"With the moving of the chickens, the tractor trailers would have to go north of Berlin, make the u-turn in the middle of the highway, and come back south again," says Virgil Shockley, a Worcester County commissioner. "You're driving an 85 foot or 90 foot tractor trailer and you have to make that u-turn from a dead standstill, it's just a potential for disaster."
State highway officials say they are just waiting on construction funding for phase three, which they hope to receive this year. They do not have an official start date, but they hope they can begin by 2015. Phillips estimates that the project could take anywhere from two to three years, which means other projects in Worcester County may have to wait for a while.
"This has to be finished before anything else can happen in Worcester County, so yes we want it done but we want it done right," says Shockley.
Shockley says once Route 113 is done, they have expanding Route 589 next on the list. The expansion of Route 90 is also on their radar, which would be essential if they eventually want to do construction on the Route 50 bridge.
For more information on the project, visit the Maryland State Highway Administration website.
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