With several major road construction projects under way or about to start this year, state officials held a press conference on a ramp of the I-695 Baltimore beltway to update the public and urge caution when driving through work zones.
"Work zones can be inherently dangerous for both workers and drivers," said SHA administrator Melinda Peters. "We need to make sure that drivers are focused on being safe as they encounter our work zones."
Nationally, more than 700 people are killed in work zones annually, according to SHA. About 80 percent of those killed in work zones are drivers, not workers, officials said.
In Maryland, there are on average almost 2,000 work-zone crashes every year, resulting in almost 1,000 injuries and an average of nine deaths a year, according to officials.
The issue is dear to Laurie Moser of Frederick County, whose 57-year-old husband, Rick, was killed after being struck by a vehicle while supervising a crew cleaning up road debris on the ramp to Route 40 from the 70/270 split near Frederick on June 26, 2007.
A truck veered across the ramp into the safety zone and struck Moser, a 17-year roadwork veteran, at 60 mph, his widow said while standing alongside her 15-year-old son, Carl, a sophomore at Middletown High School in Frederick County.
"This shouldn't have happened to Rick," she said. "He was so safety-conscious and responsible. If it happened to him, it can happen to anybody."
Peters said that the roadway infrastructure such as the Beltway were built in the 1950-'60s, and today carries more than a million cars daily.
"Time and wear and tear have taken a toll on our roadways," she said.
Replacement of the inner loop bridge over Wilkens Avenue—one of the oldest bridges of the Beltway—is one of several projects under way or about to begin that will present obstacles for drivers for the foreseeable future.
"Our primary highways and bridges take a major pounding day in and day out," said David Peake, SHA district manager for the Baltimore area, before providing an update about major road projects in the area.
Beltway at Wilkens Avenue: $13 million replacement of the inner loop bridge over Wilkens and ramps began in October 2011 and is on schedule for completion by fall of 2013.
Beltway at Charles Street: Replacement of Charles Street Bridge is complete, and crews are working on a new ramp from Charles to the Beltway. Once the new ramp is complete, the existing ramp will be converted into a local road for businesses and the roundabout on Charles Street will be removed so a traffic signal can be installed. Once all work is finished, the Beltway will be resurfaced in the Charles Street area. The entire $38 million project is expected to conclude this summer.
Beltway at Liberty Road: Approaching the final stage of replacing the entire bridge carrying the Beltway over Liberty Road. All lanes of the Beltway will remain open during peak travel hours, with off-peak lane closures on the Beltway and Liberty Road. The $18.3 million project is scheduled for completion by this fall.
Beltway at Frederick Road: The construction of a wider Frederick Road bridge to allow double turn lanes for people entering and exiting the Beltway. The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2013.
Route 40: Last Spring, crews began an $18 million project to rehabilitate the Baltimore National Pike Bridge over the Patapsco River, a concrete arch originally built in 1936. The project is scheduled for completion in the Summer of 2013.
Several major road projects will begin later this year, including the replacement of the I-83 bridge over Middletown Road in northern Baltimore County, and two projects to improve access to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Harford County.
Significant resurfacing and safety improvement projects in the Baltimore area include:
- Martin Boulevard in Essex: Resurfacing.
- Liberty Road: Resurfacing in area of Wards Chapel Road.
- South Rolling Road: Safety improvements at the I-195/Southwest Park and Ride, beginning in Spring and concluding in Fall of this year.
- I-795 Northwest Expressway: Roadway patching and resurfacing from Beltway to Owings Mills Boulevard, beginning in Spring 2012 and concluding in Spring of 2014.
- York Road: Resurfacing and sidewalk improvements from Timonium Road through Towson to the city-county line at East Ridgely Avenue.
- Patching on area interstates through the Spring and Summer, including the 295 Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the I-83 Jones Falls Expressway and I-95 between Baltimore City and the Howard County line.
Peters said the SHA's "Safe Zones" program, in which work zones are marked with signs that warn drivers how fast they are going and speed cameras, saves lives.
"The program has contributed to a more than 70 percent reduction in speed violations," she said. "Work zone crashes have gone down."
SHA developed a brochure to provide the public with an overview of road work projects, e-Road Ready, which is available through the agency's web site at roads.maryland.gov. The 2012 version of the e-Road Ready brochure is attached to this article.
Drivers can get updated information about work zones by calling 511 or visiting MD511.org.