Interstate entrance ramp closing

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Brown Avenue residents worry about lack of exits from neighborhood

CUMBERLAND — About 20 Brown Avenue residents attended Tuesday’s City Council meeting to discuss the changing of the Fletcher Drive ramp onto eastbound Interstate 68 to restricted access by the Maryland State Highway Administration. Residents are concerned that they would only have one access road out of Brown Avenue.

During a presentation, Stephen Bucy of SHA explained that the ramp will be closed because of safety issues with a small merge area onto I-68.  

“For 40 years there have been two accesses to the Brown Avenue neighborhood and you want to take it to one?” said Bill Rudd, who lives on Brown Avenue. “I think it is a ridiculous plan. There are no safety issues for the 35 residents that live on the hill near the armory.”

Rudd suggested that SHA have a public hearing where residents could voice their concerns. George Small of SHA agreed to schedule a meeting.

“I don’t want the ramp to be closed; I don’t care about the round-about,” said Harvey May, who lives on Brown Avenue.

Councilwoman Mary Beth Pirolozzi questioned whether SHA looked into the possibility of leaving the ramp open. Because of safety issues, federal highway officials won’t allow that, said Small.

May claimed there is no speed limit sign on the northbound U.S. Route 220 ramp onto I-68 and suggested putting up a 25 to 30 mph sign. May also suggested putting a caution sign from Brown Avenue to the Fletcher ramp warning motorists about the short merge area and suggested changing the yield sign to a stop sign.

Councilman David Kauffman questioned whether there are statistics on safety issues caused by the small merge area. Small noted that there had been several wrecks recently and that not all fender benders are reported.

“We are trying to make living in the area more desirable and it feels like there is a strong-arm opposition to the concern that has been addressed by the State Highway Administration,” said Kauffman.

 A gate will be put in place to close the Fletcher Drive ramp, according to Bucy. The gate will be padlocked and applicable emergency services organizations as well as  armory personnel will be issued keys for emergency use. Gates are not unusual, according to Small.

“Sometimes emergencies don’t allow you time to unlock a gate and get out onto the road,” said Pirolozzi.

Mayor Brian Grim suggested giving residents key cards to gain acess to the gate.

Also as a part of the project, a large section of a grass median will be eliminated that would allow the ramp merge to be extended significantly. SHA will also add an incomplete circle, known as a U-about, to provide direct access from southbound U.S. 220/Greene Street to eastbound I-68 at the interchange.

Restricting access to the Fletcher Drive ramp will allow for better operation of the merge, reduce backups during peak periods and will remove the conflict point between the Fletcher Drive ramp and the U.S. 220 ramp, which are 1,000 feet apart, Bucy said.

The U-about will simplify access to the interstate, provide access for all types of vehicles at Exit 42 from the west side and will reduce traffic on Fayette Street and Gephart Drive and Fletcher Drive. Overall benefits of the project include interchange lighting upgrades, drainage improvements, signage upgrades, traffic calming and replacement of problematic concrete pavement that would extend south to a point near the U.S. 220 industrial park.

Site preparation work is scheduled to begin in the fall, with project completion in 2012, according to Bucy.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .