MOUNT AIRY - It's so near and yet so far.
Sitting at the intersection of Route 27 and Ridgeville Boulevard West, motorists and would-be shoppers are so close to the Mount Airy Shopping Center they can almost touch it.
When the light turns green, they can drive to within feet of the parking lot and an entrance road to the plaza.
But at the last instant, the road bends away from the lot, sending motorists north on Ridge Avenue, and on a circuitous route to reach the shopping center parking lot.
Merchants at the shopping center have complained that the road configuration hampers business by making it difficult for prospective shoppers to reach the site.
So the developer, Ronald Cohen Management Co. in Rockville, Montgomery County, hired a traffic consultant to study the intersection and recommend how to make it easier for motorists coming across Route 27 on Ridgeville Boulevard to reach the stores.
The report was reviewed Monday by the town Planning Commission, which likely will have input in any redesign of the intersection.
"It's a very confusing and complicated traffic pattern," said Judith Rabb, a planning consultant for the town, who read the report to the commission.
Simply stated, the recommendation by the consultant, The Traffic Group Inc., of Towson, calls for shaving back the median strip that juts out far enough to block access to the plaza entrance from Route 27.
The commission does not dispute that the traffic pattern needs to be untangled.
"They really need to open something up," said commission member Keith Gehle. "This doesn't do anything for the shopping center."
But some members said Monday they're not sure the study's recommendation is the answer.
The plan calls for adding stop signs on the north and south approaches of Ridge Avenue at the access road to the shopping center. However, commissioners expressed concern that stop signs would lead to traffic backups during peak hours, perhaps onto Route 27.
Oliver Davis, commission member and councilman, suggested closing off the Ridgeville Boulevard spur altogether, which would require motorists to proceed down Route 27 and reach the shopping center via its south entrance.
"Though we don't have a problem with the (study findings), we don't think it's really the long-range solution," said Rabb of the commission's reaction to the recommendation.
The study was done solely for the developer and passed on to the commission for informational purposes. A formal proposal for realigning the intersection has yet to be submitted to the town.
The commission agreed Monday to draft a letter to the developer outlining its suggestions.
Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1990