Bowie officials dug up funds to solve a weed problem along a Maryland highway in Bowie after residents claimed the state’s once-a-season landscaping efforts were not enough.
Since the State Highway Administration began cutting back its mowing schedule six years ago, Bowie residents have complained about weeds and overgrowth on the median and edges of MD 197 in Bowie – a major thruway that brings visitors to Bowie Town Center and City Hall.
Now city officials plan to use city funds to finance landscaping of the state-owned highway, with regular maintenance scheduled to begin Aug. 15 at the cost of approximately $14,000 per fiscal year, according to city manager David Deutsch.
“It has become a pattern over the years where the city has had a higher expectation for the maintenance and upkeep of the road,” said city planning director Joe Meinert. “The road really started becoming an eyesore with the high weeds and the high grass.”
Lenette Vargas of Bowie, assistant manager at Heather Ridge Apartment Homes located right off MD 197, said the overgrowth became worse over the past few years.
“We’ve heard it from residents, and we’ve said it ourselves,” she said. “We’re pretty excited they’re finally going to do something about it.”
Vargas said the area surrounding MD 197, also known as Collington Road, has become the city’s default “downtown” area and that she is glad it will be receiving a facelift.
“It’s kind of the heartbeat of Bowie,” she said.
Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman with the Maryland State Highway Administration, said the state began reducing the number of mowing cycles in 2008 from five or more mowing cycles to four mowing cycles a year. Gischlar said cutbacks were made for financial and environmental reasons and that he doesn’t expect the state to increase roadside maintenance in the near future.
“We are not pursuing a change in policy with regard to maintaining the various transportation assets,” he said. “It is important to realize that grass is growing rapidly due to a combination of a wet spring and summer and seasonal temperatures.”
There is a long history of tension between the city, county and state over MD 197 in Bowie, including a stalled plan to widen part of the road and the city’s current top transportation priority of an extension between Kenhill Road and MD 450, Meinert said.
The county agreed to fund a road widening and landscaped median project in the late 1980s, but the plan was abandoned after stakeholders could not agree on project specifics, Meinert said.
“It created such a political problem, a hot potato, if you will,” said Bowie councilman Dennis Brady. “We lost the funding 30 years ago and we’ve been lobbying for it [ever since].”
Brady said he hopes the city’s top priority of widening of Collington between Kenhill and MD 450 can be completed in the next three to five years.
In the meantime, Brady said the additional landscaping efforts along the highway will improve the aesthetic of the area and maintain a constant standard throughout the city.
“The residents aren’t pleased when they’re forced to maintain their property when the state and county don’t [maintain theirs],” he said.