Some Washington County roads could be deemed ‘critical’ freight corridors

Transportation planners are taking steps to make sure a few more miles of area roads can qualify for federal freight funds.

The Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization, or HEPMPO, this week provisionally recommended 5 miles of roads in Washington County be designed as a Critical Urban Freight Corridor.

"These are intended to be designated as kind of last-first mile connections between areas linking them to the interstate and points of regional travel. … It allows those corridors to be eligible for the National Highway Freight Program, which is a dedicated freight funding source. It also makes those facilities eligible potentially for FASTLANE grants in the future," said Matt Mullenax, HEPMPO executive director.

The FASTLANE program provides dedicated, discretionary money for projects that address critical freight issues, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

HEPMPO’s Interstate Council heard a presentation Wednesday on the Critical Urban Freight Corridors and Critical Rural Freight Corridors from L’Kiesha Markley, freight planning coordinator for the Maryland State Highway Administration, and David Willauer, senior freight project manager for Cambridge Systematics, a consulting firm.

They said Maryland has been allowed to designate up to 75 miles as Critical Urban Freight Corridors and up to 150 miles as Critical Rural Freight Corridors. The rural corridors will be in the Eastern Shore and in Southern Maryland, they said.

Of the 75 urban miles, 50 are split evenly between the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas. The remaining 25 miles were divided evenly among the state’s five other planning organizations.

"We were allocated five miles to designate, and today we provisionally recommended Halfway Boulevard, running from Hopewell Road to I-70, as well as Maryland 63 from its I-70 interchange to Elliott Parkway. Those two facilities total 5 miles collectively," Mullenax said.

"We came to those conclusions based on work that SHA has done looking at freight numbers, looking at our long-range transportation plan, looking at volumes, turning movements, commodities, all that. That’s how we arrived at that provisional designation today of those corridors," he said.

The Halfway Boulevard segment runs about 3.5 miles. Some of the businesses near that stretch include truck travel plazas and a distribution center for Staples.

The Maryland 63 segment runs about 1.5 miles. Some of the businesses near that stretch include Dot Foods and FedEx Freight.

A final decision on the corridor will be made later this year, Mullenax said.