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Landowners whose properties border the proposed roadwork at the intersection of Route 5 and Route 925 in Waldorf are split on the benefits that the project would provide.
The Maryland State Highway Administration announced during a January meeting that roadwork was to begin on the intersection this summer and expected to conclude by late 2014 or early 2015. Construction is slated for the area ranging from 50 feet east of the train tracks that cross Business 5 to 100 feet west of the Route 925 intersection, and will include adding a 350-foot right turn lane onto 925 on Route 5 northbound and a 5-foot-wide bicycle lane on Route 5 northbound, upgrading sidewalks and traffic signals, and resurfacing the road.
Although state and county officials said they expect the proposed changes to make traffic at the intersection flow more smoothly, Pete Aitcheson of KMA Properties, who leases the land to Designer Windows and More, which is near the affected area, has strong doubts.
“There’s been several accidents when I’ve been [at Designer Windows and More]. ... It’s very difficult already to make a left-hand turn into the parking area,” Aitcheson said. He said he does not think the traffic problems on the road come from the Route 5 and 925 intersection but that they originate at the intersection of Route 5 and U.S. 301.
“My point, I guess, is that they’re wasting a couple million dollars of taxpayer money,” Aitcheson said. “They’re putting my company through hell, and all for something that won’t help at all.”
Aitcheson said he had written the SHA requesting an environmental impact study for the affected area, along with a traffic study and a National Historic Preservation Act evaluation but had received none of the information. In an email, SHA district community liaison Robert Rager said the SHA does everything in its power to comply with information requests such as those submitted by Mr. Aitcheson.
“If/when a formal [Public Information Act] request seeking access to specific documents/records is submitted, SHA will gladly respond to that request,” Rager said in the email. However, Rager said, Aitcheson’s information request had not been specific enough.
Further, Rager said, an EIS had not been conducted for the roadwork because it was “simply not needed due to the scope and location of the project.”
“Most of the project falls within existing SHA right of way, and a ‘programmatic categorical exclusion’ (PCE) was approved in July of 2012,” Rager said in the email. “This means no significant environmental impacts are expected with this project.”
Rager also noted that in its research, despite Aitcheson’s contention to the contrary, the SHA found that the building that houses Designer Windows and More was not qualified for designation in the National Register of Historic Places, as determined by the NHPA.
Aitcheson also added in an email that he felt the county was obscuring its true intention for requesting the road work.
“This is a development project the county is trying to hide as a road project because it is illegal to use eminent domain for development purposes,” Aitcheson said.
In an email, Charles County Planning and Growth Management Chief of Resources and Development Jason Groth said the road work is a small part of many larger changes planned.
“As stated in the annual Charles County Transportation Priority Letter for the last several years, the MD 5 Business road improvements have been requested to improve traffic flow in this highly congested area,” Groth said in the statement. “This is a small piece of the overall improvements needed in the Waldorf area to improve traffic congestion for both local travelers as well as ‘through’ travelers. There is no private developer project associated with this request.”
Representatives from Exxon Mobil and Verizon, who also own property in the affected construction area, could not be reached for comment.