Baltimore Street Access Project to take 18 Months

Published: December 5, 2019

Officials see October 2020 as the likely starting point for the beginning phase of the $9.4 million Baltimore Street Access Project.

CUMBERLAND — Officials see October 2020 as the likely starting point for the beginning phase of the $9.4 million Baltimore Street Access Project.

Prior estimations had the opening phase possibly beginning in the summer. However, Bobby Smith, city engineer, provided an update on the likely timeline for the project in a Times-News interview on Wednesday.

Smith said the project should take 18 months with the final touches completed in the spring of 2022. The project calls for the replacement of underground utility lines, followed by reinstalling Baltimore Street and adding streetscape upgrades.

“I think the earliest realistic time to begin would be October,” said Smith. “If we can start in the fall of next year on the underground work then we can begin working on the streetscape in the following construction season.”

Smith said the subterranean utility work could continue from October until the ground is likely to freeze by January.

“In the fall we can still do underground work,” said Smith. “You can get some of the (demolition and digging) done and work on the sanitary sewer and utility lines. You can work to the end of the calendar year as long as the ground hasn’t frozen too much. In January it’s typically frozen.”

Smith said work would resume in March.

“We will be shooting for March 1 or April 1 (2021) to begin the construction season,” said Smith. “You still have rain to deal with, but you are not seeing temperatures in the 20s so you can get the contractors out there. That is when you can begin the streetscape work … things you can see.”

Smith said from March 2021 until the end of the year, much of the installation of Baltimore Street and cosmetic streetscape work will be complete.

“The main corridor will be done in 2021,” said Smith. “Work will likely continue in 2022. What would be left would be the side (streets) like Liberty and Centre streets.”

That would peg the total completion of the project in spring 2022. However, Smith said timelines are often subject to change.

“There are a lot of unknowns. When you start digging you don’t what you find. There is no amount planning that can prepare you for some issues.”

Smith will be the lead project manager to coordinate the massive project, which includes the Maryland State Highway Administration, EADS Engineering Group, several utility companies, Williams Cochran Design Studio, Cumberland Economic Development Corp., the Downtown Development Corporation and numerous downtown business owners.

“I will be the project manager,” said Smith. “If we want shovels in the dirt next fall, we need to make sure we are all going down the same path and that comes to our engineering firm (EADS) so they don’t design something we know we can’t afford or there is going to be issues with.

“If we want the majority done in one construction season, we want to use the contractors’ time most efficiently. You need a chain of command. You don’t want someone going in asking for changes. I don’t want to go through a lengthy review process that could delay giving the engineering firm direction. If there is a deviation, we want it coordinated though one person. If you have large scale changes it has to go back to the SHA for an approval that is a minimum of three months.”

Paul Kelly, executive director of the CEDC, gave an update on the project’s financial status at a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday. Kelly said he is optimistic an estimated $2.2 million funding gap for the $9.4 million project will be filled in a timely manner. Although the project has been awarded state and federal grants so far, Kelly is seeking to cover the shortage through multiple sources including Gov. Larry Hogan’s capital budget, the Maryland Broadband Cooperative and the state Smart Growth and Community Legacy programs.

Smith said he would “prefer to have the funding identified knowing the alternative is using city funds. Hopefully that is something we don’t have to do. We don’t want to use (Maryland) bond money for the project.”

Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss said he is optimistic.

“I think the hard work that everyone has done to get us in the position we are right now is to be commended,” said Morriss. “I think it is something that is definitely achievable.

“So often people truly don’t understand the funding process and how these things work. If we didn’t ask for this funding it would go to Salisbury, Easton, Montgomery County … somewhere else. So we are doing the right thing by bringing it to the city of Cumberland and Allegany County.”

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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