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McDaniel Road will be closed for construction beginning next month through March at the Piney Branch stream crossing, roughly 1,500 feet south of the road's intersection with Hallmark Lane, as crews finish work to bridge the Waldorf road's two existing halves and provide a long-awaited link between Smallwood Drive and Middletown Road.

The road will close about Sept. 12 and reopen next year about March 31. The closure could be extended should future severe weather lead to construction delays. Signs will be posted identifying the closure and detour routes, according to a news release from the Charles County government.

The $4.2 million project “has been in the works since 2004” and will result in “one continuous McDaniel Road” connecting Smallwood Drive and Middletown Road, Elm Street Development Vice President Doug Meeker said.

The developer is paying for $2.9 million of the project, while the county is chipping in the remaining $1.3 million, Meeker said.

McDaniel Road currently consists of two legs, one that heads north from Smallwood Drive and another that runs south from Route 228 and crosses Middletown Road. The northern half narrows past its intersection with Hallmark Lane, and both sections dead-end at Old McDaniel Road, adjacent and walled off from each other.

McDaniel Road serves several neighborhoods whose residents have for years pined for the road to actually connect Smallwood Lane, Middletown Road and, ultimately, Route 228, also known as Berry Road.

“We're very grateful. We're very thankful, but the process has been very tedious,” said Deron Tross, president of the Autumn Hills Homeowners Association. “I'm glad the leaders of the county stepped up and did what was right for the 300 homeowners of Autumn Hills. I'm prayerful that this does not happen to another community in the county.”

Meeker said the leg of McDaniel Road connected to Smallwood Drive will be extended north past where it currently ends at Old McDaniel Road to the Hallmark Lane intersection, making the entirety of McDaniel Road three lanes. A bridge will be built at the stream crossing in order to correct frequent flooding problems, he said.

“Whenever Piney Branch floods, that section of road is impassable,” said Donna Daugherty, a highway engineer with the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management.

Daugherty said the project also will link the hiker-biker trails along both sections of McDaniel Road, though their placement — the southern trail is one the east side of the road while the northern path is to the west — will require it cross the road at some point.

Elm Street Development is required to complete McDaniel Road before it can record any more lots in the Autumn Hills neighborhood, Meeker said.

Meeker said called the project “totally independent” from the work being done in the Hampshire neighborhood to widen Ocelot Street and have it serve as a second access point to the adjacent Piney Grove community. Hampshire residents, particularly those along Ocelot Street worried about increased traffic on their road, have said the completion of McDaniel Road would allow Old McDaniel Road to instead serve as Piney Grove's second access point.

The county commissioners voted unanimously in March to move forward with an Old McDaniel Road project estimated to cost $1.4 million. The next step would be to actually appropriate funds to improve the road.

Ocelot Street resident Katherine Green said she and her neighbors have gotten conflicting messages from the county and construction crews, but they still expect their street to be linked with Piney Grove after work was recently completed widening and repaving Ocelot.

Green said she understands why the county's fire and EMS departments would want to be able to take a shorter route through Hampshire to get to some homes in Piney Grove and hopes that Old McDaniel Road can be used as a third access point.

“If Old McDaniel was opened, all that 1,200 to 1,500 car addition impacting our neighborhood would be gone,” Green said. “We would have a few cars, which would be totally fine.”

Daugherty said her office will be happy to finally have the road finished, presumably bringing an end to the steady stream of phone calls and emails from residents growing weary of the road's incompletion.

“You're not kidding,” she said. “We've gotten emails and talked to people in that community, and they're going to be so happy to have another way to get up to 228.”

jnewman@somdnews.com