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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
Area residents gathered at Longwood Community Recreation Center on March 26 to learn about the progress of the Brookeville Bypass and get answers to their questions now that the project has begun.
Resident Melinda Butterfield organized the meeting, which featured State Highway Administration (SHA) officials and a representative from Montgomery Parks.
About 40 people attended, mostly residents living along the south side of the bypass, along with some from the Town of Brookeville.
“It’s one thing to think about knowing the project is going to happen, but it is another thing once the trees come down, the ground is broken and the construction begins,” Butterfield said. “This was to help our neighbors to get a greater level of awareness about what is transpiring.”
Construction began last fall to construct a new two-lane roadway around the west side of Brookeville, connecting Georgia Avenue (Route 97) north and south of the town.
The bypass will originate at a roundabout south of Brookeville near Longwood Community Recreation Center. The seven-tenths of a mile, two-lane road will feature a second, northern roundabout, where motorists can exit onto Brookeville Road, or continue north onto Route 97 north of Brookeville.
The project is expected to reduce traffic congestion in the historic town and improve traffic operations and safety on existing Route 97.
Butterfield said because not knowing what is going on is upsetting, she organized the forum to bring understanding and comfort to neighbors about what is happening in their backyards.
The meeting, which had no agenda and remained civil, included questions about the construction process and what the finished product would look like.
Those who attended learned that the speed limit will be posted at 40 miles per hour, with 20 miles per hour at the two roundabouts. The only streetlights will be at the roundabouts.
Although a large amount of clearing has taken place, it is not indicative of the final path of the road. The road will be constructed within the boundaries of the two orange “limit of disturbance” fences.
A natural-surface trail has been taken out but will eventually be restored with additional connectivity. There were other concerns about stormwater management and reforestation.
Residents expressed concerns about construction noise and asked if work hours could be adjusted on weekends.
Part of the roadway will have noise barrier walls, but representatives were not able to show what they would look like.
Many of those asking questions wanted to see visuals to help them better understand, such as a 3D model, or a street-view map of the project, an example of the noise barrier and the landscaping plan.
They questioned why that information was not available online and why the information that is posted is outdated.
SHA District 3 community liaison Shannon Coyne said transportation officials will work to update the project page on the website to make it “one-stop shopping.”
She said one of the reasons why the information is not updated is that SHA is in the process of improving its website, which should be completed this spring.
SHA representatives assured residents that they will be notified of upcoming blasting operations and also said they would work with contractors to make sure they do not impede operations at Longwood during construction and that they keep their construction staging area clean.
SHA project engineer Javier Arias said the bypass project is scheduled to be completed summer 2021.
Greg Fury of Brookeville, who attended the meeting, said that although he does not live adjacent to the construction, he does walk there on a regular basis and was curious to learn more about the project.
“It was informative,” he said. “I am glad to hear that there will be no lighting and feel more confident knowing the road will be built down in a depression.”
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