I-70 ramp effort widens, Hancock settles agreement with Park Service

by Geoff Fox

A Hancock-led effort to add a new interchange on Interstate 70 leading to the Orchard Business Park is picking up momentum as six resolutions in six jurisdictions in three states have been passed in support of the project.

Hancock Town Manager Joe Gilbert said he has received letters of support from elected officials in Maryland as well as those in Pennsylvania. The Morgan County Commission in West Virginia has also agreed to write a letter of support for the interchange.

The project has reached the federal level as Gilbert has spoken with a staff member from Senator Chris Van Hollen’s office.

The staff member told Gilbert how to get the project to the top of the Federal Highway Administration’s priority list, he said.

Gilbert was scheduled to meet with Pennsylvania Senator Judy Ward and Pennsylvania Representative Jesse Topper to help get the project moving.

Van Hollen’s office told Gilbert the infrastructure funding is anticipated to be increasing this year and the allocation would be greater than what is anticipated.

Gilbert added the U.S. 522 bridge is right now on top of the town’s priority list.

Park Service agreement

Gilbert told town officials an agreement between the town and National Park Service to allow work in the boatramp area has finally been reached after a year and a half of discussion.

The process took 19 months and rounds between the town’s insurance provider and lawyer, up through the National Park Service’s legal team, Gilbert said.

“Finally, they’ve hammered out the language and that is now signed and final,” he said.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has authorized the town to let the Thrasher Group begin work on the boat ramp project.

The Thrasher Group is the engineering firm the town hired to design the upgrade and build the new boat ramp along the Potomac River.

There are a number of permits and approvals from a variety of groups needed before any work can begin, but Gilbert said those permits and approvals have been built into the contract.

MARC train on hold

Town officials have gotten an update on where things stand on a possible MARC Train service to the Hancock area during their February town meeting.

Mayor Ralph Salvagno asked Rob Van Rens of NVR Associates, the town’s advocate in Annapolis, if he had heard anything about the MARC Train West Virginia initiative that has been in consideration since late 2019 and early 2020.

In January of 2020, Town of Bath Recorder Susan Webster and Morgan County Commissioner Sean Forney approached Hancock officials during that month’s town meeting about supporting a MARC Train station across the river in Hancock, West Virginia, at the current train yard.

A month later, town officials threw their support behind the extension of MARC Trains into Morgan County.

Van Rens said Senator Paul Corderman, who is the senator for District 2, has not reintroduced the bill for MARC this year due to other reasons.

“He felt that the emphasis this year was going to be on economic rescue and relief rather than longer term development,” Van Rens said.

The bill could stand a better chance in a future year for passage.

Because of this, Van Rens said Corderman decided not to introduce the bill as a stand-alone bill, but there is a bill intended to increase funding for MARC and expansion in a generic way.

This would not be quite the same as Corderman’s original bill.

“He’s probably going to bring that back next year,” Van Rens said. “Or at least that’s my current understanding.”