East-west Boulevard Study To Take 6-month Detour

January 10, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

A new route option to study and consideration for environmental controls will delay the state's study of the proposed East-West Boulevard between Millersville and Pasadena an extra six months.

That worries some proponents of the Route 2/Interstate 97 bypass -- designed to alleviate traffic congestion in Severna Park -- who fear that the project may get lost on a back-burner while the highway administration is strapped for funds.

Project Manager Frank DeSantis of the State Highway Administration said the study, which had been slated to come out this July, will not be ready until early 1992.

"We can't ignore the alternatives the community associations give us to study. We're virtually obligated to look at all viable traffic-management options," DeSantis said.

The latest option, to guide traffic from Route 2 and Earleigh Heights Road northwest to the Brightview Drive/I-97 interchange, was proposed by the Greater Severna Park Chamber of Commerce, which also supports East-West Boulevard.

"Our concern at Ritchie Highway is bringing it as far south toward Benfield as possible so it really alleviates traffic, and that it should be easy-on, easy-off at I-97," explained Hammond "Skip" Carr, transportation issues manager for the Severna Park group.

George Deuringer, Public Works director for the Greater Severna Park Council, said he was "a little concerned" with the delay.

"I'm all in favor of the SHA exploring all viable possibilities,but on the other hand there has to be a time when you say enough is enough is enough," Deuringer, a long-time proponent of the road, said.

Councilwoman Diane Evans, R-Arnold, who had a pro-East-West Boulevard plank in her election platform, said she plans to push the county and state hard to make sure the project isn't lost.

"This is discouraging because so much time has elapsed already," Evans said. Plans to build a connector road between Route 2 and Route 3 trace their origins to the 1960s.

The new Earleigh Heights-to-Brightview Drive option, like all state-built options, would widen a portion of Earleigh Heights Road -- including shoulder and right of way -- to 110 feet and cross the B & A Trail. It would then cut north-northwest, through the proposed Brittingham subdivision, and meet the older right of way in the Jumpers Hole Road area.

At the I-97 end, the road wouldstart at Brightview Drive, cutting south-southeast across private property to join the East-West Boulevard, DeSantis said.

Highway officials will have to complete preliminary engineering studies, environmental assessments and traffic-impact studies before releasing their report to the public next year. At that time, they will decide on oneof the options.

The environmental studies may take more time than the SHA had anticipated, "but the amount of time it takes is really dependant on the amount of money we get, which is political," the project's environmental manager, Dennis Atkins, said.

DeSantis said East-West Boulevard is "not necessarily on a slow track." He said his "guess" was that its pace might pick up if the legislature approves the 10-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase for capital road projects this year, or if Director of Transportation O. James Lighthizer makes ita priority.

Robert O'Leary, spokesman for the Millersville/Severn Run Federation, a three-community coalition that formed to oppose the original bypass plans, said the delay is "just further proof that the road has never been studied adequately before."

"What we who have opposed the road have been saying all along is that the rationale for the road has been made on suppositions, never facts that can be proven. This confirms that," O'Leary said.

Along with the Chamber of Commerce option, DeSantis said, the state will be studying these more familiar proposals:

* A no-build option.

* The Mission Street to Texaco Truck Stop option. Both the two- and four-lane options under consideration would require a 110-foot right of way and displace some homes. Both the two- and four-lane proposals include options to avoid Elvaton Park, DeSantis said.

* The Obrecht Road/Brightview Drive upgrade, which would widen and straighten out this existing corridor, and also include a new intersection at Ritchie Highway. Enlarging these 40- to 60-foot roads would require the condemnation of some homes, DeSantis said.

* Widening and upgrading Benfield Road: At the request of East-West Boulevard opponents, the state is looking at the impact of expanding Benfield to either four or five lanes.

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