Highway Access Relocation
The State of Maryland wanted to relocate an existing access ramp from a federal highway that runs from Washington, D.C. to New York City. Under this plan, the access ramp would then be closer to the central business district of Burtonsville, Maryland. This plan also involved realigning the state route that ran through Burtonsville with the newly relocated access ramp.
Several parties, including local businesses, national chain stores, and environmental groups, expressed concern about the potential negative impact of relocating this access ramp. Those impacts included losing business due to removing frontage road access and increased stormwater runoff and pollution into the nearby Patuxent River.
The stakeholders involved in this collaborative process included local business owners, environmental groups, two neighborhood associations, a merchants’ association, county highway and urban revitalization officials, and State of Maryland highway engineers.
Issues and Goals
Almost two dozen small businesses and a few national chain stores were located next to the existing state route through Burtonsville. Relocating the state road to align with the new interstate ramp meant they faced the potential loss of business and vehicular access. Environmental groups, including recreational fishermen, worried that moving the state route and federal highway access closer to the adjacent Patuxent River could increase stormwater runoff and pollution.
Several parties wanted to learn about the potential operation and impact of the state’s plan to relocate the federal access ramp and the state route through town. The affected county, including the elected councilperson from this district and the regional planning agency, wanted to find acceptable areas of agreement among the various parties.
Working closely with the regional planning agency, my team and I designed and facilitated six public meetings over eight months, each involving 35-50 participants from all of the stakeholder groups. Business owners and local civic organizations wanted to understand state and federal highway budgeting, design, and construction processes. They also sought to understand the role of the county in the state highway improvement processes.
My team and I decided to combine public engagement and information sessions presented by state and county highway and urban renewal officials, local merchant associations, and local environmental organizations. These sessions included robust Q&A segments. Alternately with these public engagement meetings, we held stakeholder consensus building meetings, which built upon the prior informational session.
- After we facilitated the series of public meetings, the state granted a request from the local businesses in Burtonsville to temporarily delay relocating the state route. This delay gave them time to adapt to the changes in access and road alignment.
- Because all parties agreed that it would help the local businesses, the state used federal money over the ensuing years to move the federal highway access ramp closer to the state road’s planned realignment through town.
- County urban revitalization officials contributed funding for stormwater management planning and design, including oil-grit separators to reduce pollutant discharge to the river. This funding also provided for urban amenities, including landscaping, benches, and directional signs along the planned realigned state road. Additionally, improved signage increased the visibility of the business district from the federal and state highways.
- Addressing the conflict before it escalated avoided costly and potentially contentious local political fights and litigation. Instead, relationships improved between local business owners, local planners and environmentalists, and county and state highway officials. The local county councilman wrote a letter of commendation to our team concerning the outcomes from this process.