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Maryland DOT’s MD 97 Project Relocates Busy Corridor, Improving Traffic Operations and Preserving Historic Town

by: Mark Bird
In addition to the construction of the Brookeville Bypass, the MD 97 Relocation Construction Project included enhancements such as building two new bridges at Meadow Brand stream and Reddy Branch stream.
In addition to the construction of the Brookeville Bypass, the MD 97 Relocation Construction Project included enhancements such as building two new bridges at Meadow Brand stream and Reddy Branch stream.
A much-anticipated Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) road project is now complete and has been formally dedicated to two of its strongest champions. The $47 million MD 97 (Georgia Avenue) Relocation Construction Project is poised to reduce continually increasing traffic volumes and congestion along the old two-lane highway through the Montgomery County town of Brookeville, improving traffic operations and safety conditions for local residents, cyclists, and pedestrians on the existing Georgia Avenue, and restoring Brookeville's historic character.

During a ceremony in fall 2023, the new Brookeville Bypass was dedicated to former State Senator Karen S. Montgomery and the late Clyde W. Unglesbee (a longtime resident and former Commissioner to the Town of Brookeville).

A major component of the project includes construction of a 0.78-mile two-lane roadway west of Brookeville, between north of Goldmine Road and south of Holiday Drive, bypassing the historic town.

In addition to the construction of this new Brookeville Bypass, which opened to traffic in May, other project enhancements include:

  • Two new bridges, at Meadow Brand stream and at Reddy Branch stream
  • Two single-lane roundabouts to improve traffic and safety operations
  • American with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant sidewalk ramps
  • Bicycle compatible shoulders
  • New stormwater management facilities and drainage systems
  • New lighting and signage
  • New pavement and pavement markings
  • Construction of an offsite wetland mitigation site to lessen environmental impacts for the new bypass
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The new road allows traffic to bypass a 90-degree curve that is accompanied by a steep hill at Market Street. It also removes heavy truck traffic from historic Brookeville.

MD 97 functions as a major north-south commuter route between Montgomery, Howard, and Carroll counties and consists of all types of traffic ranging from heavy truck traffic to commercial traffic, as well as local and commuter traffic. M. Daniel Allman, MDOT SHA Assistant Media Relations Manager said that in 2022 approximately 11,750 vehicles a day traveled along the existing route, and that by 2040, nearly 14,800 drivers are projected to use the new MD 97 Bypass.

This project is a suburban context zone, and the Town of Brookeville is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.

“Brookeville is known as the 'U.S. Capital for a Day' because on August 26, 1814, President James Madison and his family fled Washington D.C. and went to Brookeville when the British Army burned the White House, as part of the War of 1812,” Allman said. “He returned to Washington the next day after the British left.”

Partnerships Propel Project to Success
The Town of Brookeville, the Maryland National Capital Park Planning Commission, Montgomery County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Maryland Historical Trust are partners on the project. Montgomery County contributed $10 million for engineering and right-of-way phases of the project.

The contract was awarded to Allan Myers Inc. of Worcester, Pennsylvania. The design team includes: Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson; Alvi Associates, Inc.; Century Engineering; Constellation Design Group, Inc.; Athavale, Lystad & Associates, Inc.; Mahan Rykiel; Brudis and Associates, Inc.; LandStudies; Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, LLP; NMP Engineering Consultants, Inc.; and Chesapeake Environmental Management.

Major subcontractors for the project include: Midlantic Piling Inc.; Mohawk Bridge and Iron Inc.; Shelly Drilling Co.; Sunrise Safety Services Inc.; Erosion Control & Landscape Service Inc.; Maine Drilling and Blasting; Paul J. Rach; Guardrails ETC Inc.; Stolar Construction Inc.; Empire Landscaping; and Midlantic Marking Inc.

“Initial studies for the project date back to the mid-1960s,” Allman said. “A formal Project Planning Study for the MD 97 project began in 1995 with a Final Environmental Impact Statement approved in 2004. Construction began in fall 2018. The Brookeville Bypass portion of the project opened to traffic in May 2023. Stormwater management, resurfacing, and sidewalk reconstruction work were completed in August 2023; and the project was fully completed at the end of 2023.”

The project included more than 38 acres of total earth disturbance, more than 203,000 cubic yards of excavation, more than 85,000 cubic yards of fill placed, more than 92,000 square yards of topsoil placed, more than 10,000 tons of asphalt placed, more than 4,800 linear feet of stream restoration, more than four acres of wetland mitigation, and 11 stormwater management (SWM) facilities constructed, including two underground SWM structures.

Primary equipment utilized on the project included: excavators, dump trucks, dozers, rollers, Gradalls, front loaders, Bobcat skid steer loaders, crawler cranes, milling machines, pavers, and manlifts.

Overcoming Nature's Obstacles
The MD 97 Relocation Construction Project addressed both common and uncommon construction challenges as it progressed, according to Allman. “There was a heavy presence of rock subgrades throughout the project as well as native soils with higher than optimum moisture content,” he said. “Additionally, we had limited areas to stockpile suitable fill material within the project limits. Excavated material from Maintenance of Traffic (MOT) Phase 1 was needed as fill in MOT Phase 2.

“Construction of a wetland mitigation site was required, to mitigate the permanent environmental impacts to wetlands and waters of the U.S. It is at an off-site location along Brighten Dam Road. We also constructed a new ball field at the Longwood Community Center after negotiations between [MDOT] SHA and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission [M-NCPPC]. The existing ball field was impacted by the new roadway and a new, relocated ball field was constructed according to M-NCPPC specifications.”

To address the challenges, some uncommon construction methods were utilized. Due to the heavy presence of rock subgrades, the scope of work included blasting in areas for the alignment of the new bypass. This required pre-construction and post-construction surveys at four properties adjacent to the work area. The surveys were used to identify the structures’ existing conditions and determine the extent of any damage (if any) which may have resulted from construction activities.

“The contractor also had to hire a Seismologist who was responsible for monitoring vibrations before and during construction operations,” Allman said. “Seismic monitoring with multiple geophones was required and a monitoring plan had to be prepared and submitted for approval, which included the type and layout of sensing devices. Allowable vibration levels in the vicinity of the adjacent properties were not to exceed 0.5 inches per second greater than the vibration levels observed during pre-construction vibration monitoring.”

To manage the increased volume of runoff caused by the newly constructed bypass and the subsequent increase in impervious area, the project utilized two large underground SWM structures. The decision to use underground structures for SWM stemmed from working around limited right-of-way and minimizing impacts to nearby environmentally sensitive areas and potential archaeological sites.

“To help maintain traffic flow during the work, the project utilized single-lane closures, shoulder closures, and flagging operations,” Allman said. “We also implemented a road closure and detour of Brookeville Road to expedite the sewer line and the Brookeville Road roundabout construction. Communication to area drivers utilized [MDOT] SHA’s Project Portal page in cooperation with the District 3 Community Relations Manager to provide e-blasts and Upcoming Project Activity Notices. A press release was also written at the beginning of construction.”

Safety, Efficiency, and Preservation
The MD 97 Relocation Project/new Brookeville Bypass will enhance safety, reduce travel times, and preserve the historic nature of the town of Brookeville while ensuring that commuters have access to businesses, churches, and recreation.

“There is an economic benefit to the historical district of Brookeville in that the traffic reduction will reduce congestion, roadway usage, and reduce potential crashes with pedestrians along with off-road impacts to residential structures,” Allman said. “The delays associated with the three-way stop at the High Street, Market Street, and Brighton Dam intersection, which is an impediment to free-flowing traffic, is now substituted with a free-flowing section that reduces traffic build up and travel times.”

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