SHA outlines changes to Ashton crossroads
Intersection will feature new lanes to help traffic flow

Representatives from the State Highway Administration met with Ashton and Sandy Spring residents last week to detail the changes planned for the Route 108 and New Hampshire Avenue intersection if the Ashton Meeting Place shopping center is built there.

 ‘‘We are fully funded for construction. We are fully funded for design. We are fully funded for right of way,” David Phillips, project manager with the State Highway Administration, said about the agreement to share the cost with developer Fred Nichols.

Whether the changes will improve traffic flow through the Ashton intersection is what concerns many residents. Almost 100 people attended the Feb. 15 meeting, which was organized by Nichols’ development team and held at Ross Body Community Center.

When SHA conducted a Congestion Relief Study in 1998 and a follow-up study in 2004, improvements to the intersection of routes 108 and 650 were deemed necessary, Phillips said. But the intersection was considered a low priority in comparison to others and did not get funded at that time, he said.

Partnering with the developer and combining resources will now allow the long-awaited improvements to be made, Phillips said.

Contrary to local perspective, Phillips said, the intersection ‘‘isn’t doing all that bad” in comparison to SHA standards.

Intersections are graded from A through F, similar to school grades, with an A indicating that it is working perfectly, Phillips said later in an interview with The Gazette. The route 108⁄650 intersection rates a C, which doesn’t specifically mean average, but means ‘‘very effective,” he said.

When the work is completed, SHA will periodically revisit the intersection to take traffic counts, accident analyses and check signal timing, Phillips said. The highway administration is not saying the road improvements will work 100 percent, but ‘‘this is what we feel is best,” he said.

Betty Becraft of Brookeville is skeptical.

Everyone wants to think the SHA is telling the truth, but Becraft said she does not trust the officials, she said. The intersection plan is not completely worked out and there are still considerable safety concerns, she said.

As far as correlating intersection and road changes with the Sandy Spring⁄Ashton Master Plan, Phillips said the plan will be taken into account as much as possible. The SHA has to do a balancing act between safety and congestion, he explained.

The plan

Developer Fred Nichols hopes to build Ashton Meeting Place, a mixed-use development, at the corner of routes 108 and 650 in Ashton.

The State Highway Administration is planning changes to the intersection to accommodate increased traffic. Those proposed changes include:

  • A deceleration lane for eastbound traffic on Route 108 (past Route 650) turning right into the shopping center.
  • A left-turn-only lane will be added to eastbound Route 108 approaching Route 650.
  • A right-turn-only lane will be designated on westbound Route 108 for cars turning north onto Route 650.
  • A bike path will run along the north side of Route 108.
  • A sidewalk will run from Sherwood High School toward the intersection and wrap around the corner onto Route 650. Sherwood is located along eastbound Route 108, a short distance from Route 650 (New Hampshire Avenue).

*Intersection crossing sites will have audible pedestrian signals for the hearing-impaired and a countdown feature, which will let pedestrians know how many seconds remain for them to cross the street.

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