The state is studying traffic improvements near the intersection of Route 5 and Great Mills Road, including the likelihood of a new bridge over the St. Mary’s River.
The Maryland State Highway Administration’s funding includes $5 million to plan the highway changes in Great Mills, the scene of weekday traffic tie-ups.
Workers from Webster Field in St. Inigoes going north on Route 5 merge with workers coming down Great Mills Road from Patuxent River Naval Air Station in the evenings.
“It’s like a cork” in a bottleneck there, said Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s), who requested the $5 million.
Route 5 is two lanes there and the bridge over St. Mary’s River would be the key in making improvements, transportation officials said. When the St. Mary’s County commissioners earlier asked for traffic relief there, state officials told them the bridge there was a challenge.
“It needs to be replaced,” Bohanan said. “It’s the way to increase volume.”
The span was originally built in 1913 and widened in 1955, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.
Because the bridge sits between the intersections of Route 5 and Indian Bridge Road and Route 5 and Great Mills Road “some type of associated improvement would need to occur to the bridge since it sits between the two intersections,” David Buck, media relations manager for SHA, said.
The preliminary study is underway, and the $5 million would be added next summer with the governor’s approval to see that planning work through.
One question is “can you replace the bridge and keep traffic moving” at the same time, Bohanan said.
“The study will cover current and projected traffic and environmental elements,” Lee Starkloff, district engineer for Maryland SHA, said in an email.
The target for completion for the preliminary phase is summer 2015 and the next phase after that would be actual project planning, Starkloff said. “Future phases of design, right-of-way utilities and construction will be funded as revenues allow.”
Bohanan said there is a “strong likelihood they would be looking at right-of-way purchases” at the Great Mills Road intersection with Route 5.
Last year, the average daily traffic count at Route 5 and Great Mills Road was 18,460 vehicles and 16,940 on Route 5 south of Piney Point Road.
St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) has asked for improvements at the intersection, even offering assistance from county government.
He said of the study this week, “I think it’s a great initiative. It’s something the county sorely needs. When you look at the traffic there every day, I think it’s imperative we find a way to alleviate that bottleneck.
“I think it’s great John’s got this,” Morgan said of Bohanan.