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Maryland Commuters Get Ticket to Ride With $56-Million Rail Extension

Wed June 21, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Chris Volker

The state of Maryland is taking a big step to revitalize one of its communities, improving transit service and furthering economic development with the start of the Maryland Area Rapid Commuter (MARC) rail project and East Street extensions in the city of Frederick, MD.

According to Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening, the outcome of the $56-million project will be enormously beneficial since it will improve transit service for citizens commuting to Washington, D.C., and help reduce some of the traffic congestion along I-270. Additionally, the East Street project will provide direct access to the downtown train station and will be a catalyst for revitalization of the area. These two projects are part of the Smart Growth program in Maryland.

The 22-kilometer (13.5 mi.) MARC Frederick project will open in late 2001 and includes two new stations. The downtown station will be built in accordance with the historic charm of the area. The other station, with more than 800 parking spaces, will be built along MD 355 opposite the Francis Scott Key Mall. By 2005, mass transit officials expect to attract 1,600 additional daily commuters.

The East Street extension project will cost approximately $2.2 million and includes a four-lane divided roadway with curbing, sidewalks, landscaping and a bus entrance to the new downtown train station. A new bridge also will be constructed to span Carroll Creek. The half-mile East Street extension is expected to be completed by next spring. R.F. Kline is the prime contractor for the East Street extension.

Devon Miller, project engineer for the Maryland State Highway, said that the East Street extension will run from East Patrick Street to South Street in downtown Frederick which will create easy access to the MARC rail. The project involves the construction of 457-kilometers (1,500 ft.) of roadway as well as a simple span, concrete-reinforced slab bridge. The bridge will be 9 meters (30 ft.) in length and 21 meters (70 ft.) wide.

“There will be 17 retaining walls built to hold the fill, the longest being 251 feet in length and 16 feet high,” Miller explained. “Since there is existing flood control, concrete conduits will be created with a channel of water running down the center. An ornamental arch will also be built with panels on each side for aesthetic purposes. The structures will be built with brick facing on stone veneer. A landscaped park will surround the bridge and waterway.”

Other aspects of the project include developing a 14.6-meter (48 ft.) storm drainage system, which ties into the existing conduit, and the placement of new traffic signals.

“Currently, the clearing of the site is taking place and driving of the piles for the retaining walls is under way,” Miller said. “The equipment used at this point are Cat 345B, 325B and 953B backhoes, graders and a sheeps foot machine.”

Miller mentioned that the major challenge with a project of this kind is working in a downtown urban environment which entails working with the city and local business owners. Another major challenge involves the thickness of the bridge which is .75 meters (2.5 ft.) thick — bridges of this type are usually a foot thick — and can be difficult to work with. The bridge currently is not supported by steel girders but with concrete slab which acts as a girder system.

The Maryland Mass Transit Administration (MTA), working in tandem with the State Highway Administration, is handling the MARC rail project. This includes two stations: one downtown and the other suburban. According to Deno Yenias, the manager of construction for the MTA in Maryland, the project has been in the design phase for more than 10 years. The preliminary grating and underground utility services currently are under way.

“The structures will both be brick with a slate roof,” said Field Sadtler, MTA’s resident engineer and consulting engineer with Remmel, Klepper & Kahl, who also designed the buildings. “The downtown station, to be called Frederick Station, will reflect the turn-of-the-20th-century historic renovation taking place in Frederick. It will be a full-service station and include an interface loop for passenger cars and buses to drop and go. The suburban station, soon to be known as Monocacy Station, will be built with no facilities behind a shopping mall and contain parking for 870 cars. The suburban station will contain shelters and also service freight as well as passenger rail.”

The state of Maryland is taking what used to be the B&O Railroad (Frederick Branch) and revitalizing it. At this point, the MTA has received the right-of-way to remove 7 kilometers (4.5 mi.) of track and rebuild it. This also involves infrastructure improvement and drainage. An overnight storage yard also will be refurbished with storage tracks, a maintenance facility, crew quarters and associated mechanical and electrical supplies.

“The equipment used on this project includes anything from roller tampers to backhoes,” Sadtler said. “The clearing and grubbing has been completed. A major fill has been completed at suburban station and no subsidence has been evident at this point. The surcharge is being removed as we speak.

“A major challenge with a project of this type is the fact the community is older and sometimes you find things that nobody knew was there, especially sink holes. This is especially true of the downtown Frederick station,” he said. “That’s why we are currently performing a grouting program study which is being overseen by Earth Engineering Sciences of Baltimore.”

The rail station project’s general contractor is Haverhill and the construction is scheduled for completion by December 2001.

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