When someone mentions “transportation” in the Eastern Panhandle, immediate thoughts go to issues like delays, traffic congestion and safety. The Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization has begun updating its Long Range Plan and is in the process of asking residents about area transportation. The HEPMPO is a federally designated transportation planning organization that includes all of Berkeley and Jefferson counties, as well as Washington County, Md. It is based on the Hagerstown and Martinsburg urbanized area delegated by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The MPO must approve any highway or transit project that is funded fully or in part with federal money. With a planning area population of 250,000, public input is critical for the development of the plan’s update, which is being worked on by the HEPMPO’s Technical Advisory Committee, comprised of highway officials, planners and engineers.
An innovative online survey has been created using MetroQuest public engagement software. The survey consists of five quick sections that allow participants to enter their priorities and comment on transportation projects. It won’t take more than a few minutes to complete.
As part of the survey, residents are asked to use an interactive map to review existing highway, transit and pedestrian projects and designate whether they are a priority or not, all while providing the option to identify new projects.
Since the goal is to reach as many folks as possible, the survey is being distributed in a number of ways including email blasts to Chamber of Commerce members, by newspaper articles, local radio stations and links on the MPO’s site.
It’s very important for folks in Berkeley and Jefferson counties to complete the survey so we can have the feedback and identify priorities. With new federal legislation and funding questions we need to consider projects carefully. From a long-term planning perspective our area has seen growth and major projects, such as the widening of north Interstate 81, Martinsburg’s Raleigh Street Extension and the new W.Va. 9 to Virginia. With these projects coming online and armed with new Census data, we adjust our forecasts to model a future transportation system in 2040 and then ask residents for their input on those results.
The survey can be accessed at hepmpo.metroquest.com. For questions or additional information, contact the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle MPO by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone at 240-313-2081 or visit the project website hepmpo.com. Any written comments can be mailed to HEPMPO, 33 West Washington St., Suite 402, Hagerstown MD 21740, or submitted by email.
— Matt Mullenax is a geographic information specialist with the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization. He can be reached at 240-313-2081, or by email at email@example.com