Georgia Avenue (MD 97) originates in the District of Columbia, moves north through Silver Spring, Wheaton, and Aspen Hill where it expands to four to five lanes all the way to Olney. North of Olney and MD 108, Georgia Avenue reverts to a two-lane road and after a little less than two miles comes to an abrupt halt at a T-intersection in the center of the historic Town of Brookeville – a town that at one time welcomed President James Madison and his party fleeing a burning Capital during the War of 1812 and half a century later witnessed units of both the Confederate and Union armies pass through. At this juncture Georgia Avenue has become High Street and before it snakes its way out of town headed all the way to Pennsylvania, it also briefly becomes Market Street. Just “yesterday” it was a dirt but well-used road to Westminster with houses built right up to its edges. Today it is also well-used, the houses are still there, but the carriages and horses have been replaced by a far less romantic reality of seemingly endless streams of commuter vehicles and trucks. The Bypass would provide a safe and straighter “shortcut” to the west of Town.
What is the Bypass?
More than thirty years ago a Brookeville Bypass “concept” road appeared in the Olney Master Plan as a transportation solution for moving projected traffic increases north without getting hung up in below standards, obsolete intersections and dangerous turns in the middle of essentially a 19th century country village. Older residents recall the State Highway Administration performing land surveys of possible bypass routes soon after the Master Plan was adopted. Montgomery County in fact purchased land for a portion of a possible bypass alignment more than twenty years ago. Brookeville Town officials and residents have worked hard since to convince County and State officials, particularly the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), to construct the bypass and “give the Town back to its residents” and at the same time protect a valuable historic and cultural resource from further degradation. After years of protracted, complicated, and contentious meetings, focus group meetings, public hearings, countless feasibility and consultant studies, and changing impacts of ever-shifting regulatory and statutory requirements from wetlands to Smart Growth, in late 2002 the SHA Administrator selected Alternate 7 Modified as the desired Brookeville Bypass alignment.
At issue currently is obtaining funding for the design, engineering, right-of-way acquisition and ultimately construction in a very difficult budget environment. Efforts continue to be made to push this project to the head of the line for funding.
- Commuters will no longer have to sit fuming and frustrated in Town at one more grid locked intersection.
- Sharp turns on a hilly rain-slicked or icy road with no shoulders will be history.
- Large trucks will no longer drive cars off the road in making turns around a too-sharp intersection nor will they cut across residents’ yards.
- Exhaust and road debris will cease to infiltrate people’s houses and lungs.
- Cars and trucks which have taken out four cast iron lamp posts and crashed into houses, a church kitchen, a cemetery, and countless trees will become bad memories.
- School buses will be able to safely pick up children.
- Truck vibrations will no longer crack plaster walls in two-hundred year-old houses.
- Town residents and visitors to the Town Historic District will be far less likely to be run down on a sidewalk or crossing the street.
- A town can become a “community” once again.
- The Bypass will include parkway enhancements like bike paths.
- Historic and archeological assets will be protected.