Commuters And Nsa Cease Fire On Range Rd.

May 22, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Workers at the National Security Agency and officials at Fort Meade,fighting a month-old war over the closing of a commuter shortcut through a firing range, have called a temporary cease-fire.

Garrison commander Col. Thomas Raleigh Mann has until June 3 to answer the latest peace proposal drafted by the NSA two weeks ago.

The fight started soon after the end of the Persian Gulf War, when the Army refused to reopen Range Road, which it had closed as part of an effort to improve wartime security at the fort.

But with thefighting over, base employees and Crofton and Odenton residents, whosay beleaguered roads nearby can't handle the additional traffic, want Range Road opened.

NSA has proposed putting uniformed guards atthe entrance to Range Road to ease fears that the opening of the road will lead to increased crime and vandalism.

The road was used bycommuters from Bowie, Crofton and Gambrills. Instead of taking Route175 and entering the fort at the main entrance on Mapes Road, they took Route 424 to Patuxent Road and then got on Range Road.

Range Road meets Patuxent Road just before the Piney Orchard development andwinds its way through several firing ranges and into the heart of Fort Meade. It allowed commuters to avoid the traffic crunch at routes 175 and 32, which can be backed up for several miles during rush hours.

The Army said last month that it would not open the road because it found that incidents of crime, vandalism and illegal poaching had been reduced to zero while the road was shut down.

The army alsosaid that it didn't make sense to reopen the road when it will lose control of much of the property the road sits on at the end of September when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes over 7,600 acres aspart of a base realignment plan.

State Delegate Marsha Perry, D-Crofton, who has been mediating the dispute, said the Fish and Wildlife Service would be willing to keep the road open as long as assurances are made that traffic won't endanger animals.

The NSA said its guards would be stationed at the gate during the morning and evening commuting hours -- and that the road could be closed in between, on weekends and nights.

Don McClow, spokesman for Fort Meade, said the base will not comment on how they will answer the proposal.

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