Range Rd. Closing Under Attack

Unhappy Commuters Say Diverted Fort Access Sends Traffic Into Snarl

April 17, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Range Road used to be a convenient alternative for Fort Meade and the National Security Agency commuters avoiding bottlenecks on routes 175 and 32.

But since the Persian Gulf war in January, the out-of-the-way entrance to the Odenton Army base was barricaded for security.

The Army's decision to keep the barrier after the war's end has riled base employees and Odenton residents, who say beleaguered roads nearby can't handle the additional traffic.

"There is a lot of controversy on the closing of Range Road," said Pat Wellford, president of the Odenton Improvement Association. "The residents are quite upset about it."

The road is used by commuters from Bowie, Crofton andGambrills. Instead of taking Route 3 north to Route 175 and enteringthe fort at the main entrance on Mapes Road, they take Route 424 to Patuxent Road and then get on Range Road.

Range Road meets Patuxent Road just before the Piney Orchard development and winds its way through several firing ranges and into the heart of Fort Meade.

It allows commuters to avoid the traffic crunch at routes 175 and 32, which can be backed up for several miles.

Don McClow, spokesman for Fort Meade, said the Army has no plans to open the gate at Range and Patuxent roads. He said officials have found that crime, vandalism andpoaching have been eliminated since the road was closed.

"Officials are concerned that people have to spend extra time going the extraroute," McClow said. "But we've had a phenomenal success in stoppingtheft and vandalism. Since that gate has been closed, the incidence of poaching and destruction to government property has gone to zero."

Another reason for not reopening the road, he said, is that the Army will lose control of much of the property the road sits on at theend of September when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes over 7,600 acres as part of the base realignment.

State Delegate Marsha Perry, D-Crofton, said she has talked with wildlife service officials and is optimistic that the road will be reopened in October.

"The commitment has always been there to keep the road open," she said. "I am sympathetic and pleased that vandalism is down. I would hope wecould convince them to open the road back up."

McClow said that once the interchange under construction at Routes 32 and 175 is completed, the traffic will be reduced.

McClow, who said he used to use Range Road to get to work, said it takes an extra 10 minutes to get to work.

Today, the State Highway Department will open two ramps atthe Route 32-175 interchange. Cars northbound on Route 175 will be able to get on west Route 32 on a ramp instead of waiting at a trafficlight to turn left.

Southbound cars on Route 175 also will be able use a ramps to get onto west Route 32. The complete $10.5 million interchange won't be open for 18 months.

"Once these things are completed, things will ease up quite a bit," SHA spokesman Russ Ulrich said, adding that officials feel confident that the opening of the tworamps today will "help quite a bit."

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