Updated: Mar 29, 2020
The Oakland Bypass, or Ninth Street Extended (truck route) has become a topic of conversation in Garrett County. On March 15, the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce welcomed Engage Mountain Maryland (EMM) to present their most recent information about the proposed bypass for their Board of Directors. EMM President, Mark Stutzman shared information the nonprofit has been compiling from the State Highway Administration (SHA) and related studies that outline the proposed 2.4 mile road that would connect Route 219 North and Route 219 South around Oakland. Currently all traffic travels through Oakland by way of 3rd and Oak Streets that have been used as the main thoroughfares since the town’s beginnings.
EMM’s presentation to the Chamber of Commerce reflected some updates following a recent critique publicly shared at the March 15 Garrett County Commissioners meeting. "Our mission from the beginning has been to engage citizens on important issues," says Stutzman. “We welcome all input and provide updates as they are available." EMM reported a 12% decline in traffic since 2007 which was overstated by just over 3.05%." This is a relatively minor detail but still important to get right," said Stutzman. "Anecdotal observations are being used to show that traffic is off the charts in Oakland, when in fact it has declined based on information from SHA. Considering all the new development along 3rd Street, I find that surprising."
Based on traffic counts, SHA categorizes Oakland as “Level A”, meaning traffic is free-flowing, lower volume, and higher speed. For EMM, Stutzman explains that the main point is the data is raising questions that are still unanswered. "Rather than attack the data," says Stutzman "We prefer to use it no matter where you sit on the issue. It should guide local leaders to make the best decision for our community."
"A common misunderstanding with traffic counting is that SHA does not count cars, just trips," Stutzman explains. "An individual can make laps around Oakland and rack up multiple trips on the counters in several locations, yet it’s still just one car being counted." He says people often observe the total daily traffic counts and perceive it to be a lot of vehicles when it could be back and forth travel by one driver several times a day.
Stutzman also shared a concern with the new naming of the proposed bypass by calling it a "truck route." That designation would make Route 219’s entire length a truck route which could increase truck traffic through McHenry, according to Stutzman. "The Chamber of Commerce makes significant investments in tourism promotion, and altering use of the main