- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Construction has started for a new state park and ride lot off Golden Beach Road in Charlotte Hall and another lot is being planned in New Market off Route 6.
When the two are complete, there will be 1,000 new parking spaces for commuters riding buses north out of St. Mary’s County.
The population of St. Mary’s and the region continues to grow, and so does bus ridership. The bus service started serving St. Mary’s and Charles counties in 1989 with 10 daily bus trips. Now the number is 47 trips — 24 in the morning and 23 in the afternoon — according to the Maryland Transit Administration. Ridership has increased from 520 in 2006 to 687 this year, according to the MTA. The state has been renting 600 parking spaces at the Charlotte Hall Shopping Center since 2006.
The Charlotte Hall park and ride, with 500 parking spaces, should be open next summer, state officials told the St. Mary’s County commissioners recently, and another 500 spaces are needed to meet increasing demand.
The county offered land at the intersection of Route 5 and Route 6 years ago, but planners turned down the location in 2007 because of concerns of what the bus traffic would do to the intersection there.
Tom Hannan, an MTA traffic engineer, said 90 percent of the commuter traffic (446 trips) would come to the New Market location before 7 a.m. and 59 percent of the traffic (276 trips) would come after 5:15 p.m.
The traffic signal at Route 5 and Route 6 would be retimed to flush out southbound traffic down Route 5 to avoid stacking the in the middle lanes of the intersection, he said. Sixty-five percent of the trips to the New Market park and ride are expected to come from the south, he said.
New Market Turner Road would also be widened to accommodate the lot, which would be located just past the Charlotte Hall recycling and trash convenience center.
“You’ve made some considerable improvements and that’s a good thing,” said Commissioner Dan Morris (R). “This looks very well.”
But he said there are still traffic problems on Golden Beach Road where the other $4.1 million park and ride lot is being built. “It’s a nightmare in the morning,” he said.
Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) noted that the New Market lot is “back in the woods,” and asked if there were any security concerns.
Ernest Baisden, manager of the project development division of the Maryland Transit Administration said security cameras could be installed there, but the local sheriff’s office would have to do the monitoring.
Hannan said there is only one way in or out for anyone looking to cause trouble.
“The last thing that a crook wants is to be trapped,” Morris said.
“Or filmed,” said Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R).
The lot does not offer direct access to Route 5 as to avoid interfering with horse-and-buggy traffic there.
The preliminary design for the New Market lot should be completed by February or March. Final design is expected to take another 18 months and when construction starts, that should take 12 months.
Baisden said the state will continue to rent spaces at the Charlotte Hall Shopping Center parking lot if needed.