Merritt to get overdue facelift
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 13:24

The State Highway Administration says Merritt Boulevard’s pavement is inadequate to support current traffic flow. photo by Ben Boeh

SHA says road needs major repairs

by Ben Boehl

For years, there have been proposals to make Merritt Boulevard look better. Most plans entail beautifying the buildings and scenery on the road. The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has plans of its own, which it presented to the community at a public meeting on Nov. 28.
    The SHA announced that the roadway, which is designated as MD 157, will receive upgrades that includes a four-inch overlay of pavement.
    Wendy Wolcott, assistant district engineer for project development with the SHA, said the road has deteriorated to the point where it needs to be rehabilitated.
    “This roadway needs significant improvement,” Wolcott said.
    “This is a positive, because the road will be totally reconstructed and when it is done, it will look like a new roadway.”
    Merritt was a county road until the SHA took it over in the late 1990s, but it has received only a one-inch overlay since.
    Other features of the plan, in addition to the pavement, include new curbs and gutters along the roadside and in the median, ADA upgrades and sidewalk replacement, new concrete driveway aprons and traffic signal modifications that include accessible pedestrian signals, countdown pedestrian signals and LED traffic lights.
    Another of the new features of Merritt will be a new bike lane.
    “The state is looking to increase bicycle compatibility to all its roadways,” said Scott Holden, an SHA civil engineer.
    “We will have this in the north- and southbound lanes for the roadway.” Drainage improvements will include new inlets and pipes. Landscaping will be used to help median storm water management.
    One resident asked why new storm drains need to be replaced.
    The State Highway admitted that there is no drainage problem on Merritt, but they must follow the regulations set by the Maryland Department of Environment.
    “The storm drains are the old ‘crate’ system, and they need to be replaced,” Holden said.
    According to Holden, the SHA is looking to decrease extra pavement along the road because there is more than needed. Another resident was worried that the shoulder would be taken away.
    Holden  assured her that the eight-foot shoulder will remain and was requested by the community due to the demand of parking on Merritt during the Fourth of July fireworks display.
    Since most of the road is commercial and the Eastfield-Stanbrook community has a service road, on-street parking will only be an issue for about six houses near Peninsula Expressway.
    SHA said it will meet with those residents if a driveway is blocked or if street parking temporarily becomes prohibited.
    The plan calls for repavement of Merritt Boulevard from Wise Avenue to Peninsula Expressway. The north section of the road, between Wise Avenue and the Baltimore Beltway, isn’t scheduled for the upgrades.    
    Wolcott said that the south Merritt segment is among the state’s 20 roads most in need of such work.
    New Norwood Holabird Community Association president John Ayers attended the meeting and told the crowd that he met with Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz about upgrades to the northern side of Merritt as part of his revitalization plan for the business corridor for the area.
    “We have gone through the county channels properly, but we haven’t gone through the state,” Ayers explained.
    One resident asked if the contractor on this project will be from out of state or here in Maryland. The resident said that there are unemployed people in the area and he wants local companies to get first shot at the project. The SHA responded by saying that it is usually the same five to six contractors that work on SHA projects.
    “We are going to advertise it in the spring for the contract,” Holden said.             “The lowest bidder will get the work.”
    SHA said that the entrance to the Merritt Park Shopping Center will be redesigned. There are currently three entrances from Merritt Boulevard, but they will be reconfigured into one entrance.
    On the topic of Merritt Park Shopping Center, Stanbrook resident Patricia Paul expressed concern about pedestrians who don’t use the intersection and cut across the road.
    Ayers said he has talked to Regional Management, Inc. (owners of Merritt Park Shopping Center) about getting a foot bridge over the road, but there is uncertainty on the other side of the road about the future of the North Point Government Center and Police Precinct 12.
    “We are hoping to get it as a give back by Regional Management,” Ayers said.            
    Two state legislators, Del.  Sonny Minnick and Sen. Norman Stone, attended the meeting. Minnick said he wants to know if the new landscaping will be maintained, as he noticed the median along Merritt was not properly groomed last spring and the grass didn’t get cut until the summer.
    “My concern is cutting the grass. The grass was up to your knees last year,” Minnick explained to Wolcott.
    “Is it going to be maintained?”
    Wolcott answered their contractor maintains the grass and it should be cut every few weeks.
    The Merritt Boulevard project will begin in the spring and is expected to be completed by fall 2014.
    “We might have minor detours if we (are working) on an intersection, but that will be for a short duration and last for a day or two,” Holden said.
    While some community members had individual concerns, most of the community appeared to be onboard.
    Karen Cruz, president of Eastfield-Stanbrook Civic Association, said some of her community members had new concerns as some changes were made since a September meeting, but she finds the project promising.
    “We support the project. They will do a great job,” Cruz said.
    Ayers not only supports the project, he wishes it had came sooner.
    “I think it’s long overdue,” Ayers said. “It needed to be done years ago.”