Plans for the Watkins Mill Interchange project sit in a preliminary engineering phase with 30 percent of the design completed, a State Highway Administration official told the Gaithersburg mayor and City Council Monday evening.
The preliminary engineering phase is part of a process with $6.67 million in funding and could take another 18 to 24 months to complete, said Randy Gray, SHA project manager for the Watkins Mill Interchange.
The project initially received design approval in February 2002 and will eventually result in the completion of a link between the existing Watkins Mill Road segments over I-270, providing a new East-West connection for the city of Gaithersburg.
A major issue for the project — whether the full interchange will be completed or only the bridge over I-270 — is yet to be decided, Gray said.
Current funding levels are for one project, meaning "just the overpass, no ramps structure only or the full interchange" as long as it's completed at once, without any significant breaks in construction, Gray said.
Cost options for each project range from $79.6 million to $105.9 million for the bridge only and $168.5 million to $218.4 million for the full interchange.
Although it's not the most amount of money the SHA has spent on projects like the Watkins Mill Interchange, Gray said, it's on the verge of being considered a "major interchange project."
Despite the potential costs and continued longevity of the project, Council Vice President Ryan Spiegel said he firmly believes the full interchange should be completed.
"I would really like to see this move forward as one project," Spiegel said. "Even if it might take longer and be more expensive, we need to make sure [the whole interchange is completed]."
If it's not, Gray said, the bridge would be difficult to make additions to after completion, adding that construction duration would be the same for both options, but would require a larger workforce and work on all four of the project's four quadrants at once in order to build the full interchange.
The full presentation, including information about the planned stream restoration accompanying the project, can be found on the city of Gaithersburg website.