HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Washington County is moving to Plan B to procure funding to widen Interstate 81.
The Maryland Department of Transportation was unable to deliver $55 million to proceed with the project. County Chief Financial Officer Sara Greaves says other funding sources are being pursued and commissioners are setting aside $1 million to help match federal support. The highway is critical to the Volvo truck operation in Hagerstown and its sister plant in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.
“Could it use four lanes? Yes,” says truck driver Brandon Boyd. “Could it be three lanes? Yes. But does it need to be widened? The truth is yes. It needs to be widened. Let’s make the road safer. It’ll make traffic flow a little better and especially when you’re coming into major metropolitan areas going up and down 81, yes it needs to be widened.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation just awarded nearly $1 billion in highway grants to 20 states, but not to Maryland or Pennsylvania. Still, those who travel the highway regularly see a need for improvements.
“I’d definitely like to see them widen it more,” says Cody Sechrist, also a truck driver. “So then it gives us a lot more room out there and I honestly think it’ll cause less accidents if they do widen it.”
At the halfway boulevard exit off of I-81, congestion is a major concern.
“It is kind of tight to be honest with you,” says Roodelin Angrand who drives a truck for a living. “Especially 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Five-o’clock it gets very, very, slow.”
Construction at the Halfway Boulevard exit will expand interchanges with U.S. Route 11.
Even before the pandemic, the project was delayed by cold winter weather. The county hopes to meet with federal officials later this summer.