To motorists, the new concrete embankments along U.S. 29 near Route 103 in Ellicott City are signs of more construction and more traffic problems like those a few miles south at Broken Land Parkway.
But to the county and state planners, developers and homeowners involved,they are the denouement of a 31-year struggle called Route 100.
Workers last week set up a chain-link fence construction yard andplaced surveyor's stakes in the area in preparation for earth-movingand tree-clearing for the high-speed intersection.
Estimated to be completed by late 1993, the intersection will link the two-lane Route 100, later to be widened to four lanes, to both U.S. 29 and Route 103. An overpass will eliminate the traffic light on U.S. 29.
"We're very pleased that the (Charles I.) Ecker administration has finally gotten this thing going. We're very, very pleased at that," said developer Patrick McCuan, who has already built a mile of the road westof Route 104.
McCuan said the link should make it easier to finance new development at his Columbia 100 Office Research Park, which can be reached only by way of congested Route 108.
The county plans to lend the state an estimated $4.1 million to link the office park and McCuan's $3 million segment to U.S. 29 by the time the intersection is finished. The county-backed segment is named for the stream it will cross, the Red Branch of the Little Patuxent River.
The interchange was estimated to cost more than $24 million, but Haverhill Contracting Co. of Dundalk won the contract with a $16 million bid.
Constructing the remaining portions of Route 100, from Route 104 to Interstate 97, is expected to take about five years after the estimated cost of $223 million is obtained.
The state put the interchange project on hold last fall after highway money dried up because of plummeting auto sales, which led to less revenue from motor vehicle fees and taxes. State lawmakers increased vehicle fees in a special sessionin June, allowing the interchange and other projects to proceed.
Few near the road's path welcome its revival, however.
When GeorgeDress decided to buy a new single-family home in the Brampton Hills subdivision in April of 1985, the highway was not on the county's 20-year general plan for development.
The road had been deleted from the plan in 1974, but months after Dress signed the contract of sale on his house, then-county executive J. Hugh Nichols persuaded the County Council to put it back in the plan to prevent developers from blocking the route.
"I'm realistic. It's gonna happen. I could eithermove or I could stay here," Dress said. His property backs up to theRoute 100 right-of-way, and he can see the mostly undeveloped McCuanproperty across a farmer's field.
"In the meantime, we've had 5 1/2 years of wonderful rural life, with cows coming up to my fence, and its been great," Dress said, adding that his main concerns now are protecting trees on his property and lobbying the state to build sometype of sound barrier.
Ken Boyd will have more time to enjoy the "nice wooded setting backing up to a farm and all that" that endears him to his home in Hunt Country Estates.
His development is farther down Route 100's path, on a segment that highway officials say may take five years to finish after the state comes up with an estimated $37 million needed to build the four-lane road from Route 104 to I-95and add a third and fourth lane to the Red Branch segment.
That money may come from a gasoline tax increase being pushed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Boyd, however, said, "I think I'd rather keep themoney in my pocket."
SHA officials have scheduled two informational meetings about the project, the first for St. John's Lane area residents at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Northfield Elementary School, and the second for other area residents at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 8, at Howard High School.
While construction of the interchange involves many shifts in traffic patterns, highway officials said the effect on U.S. 29 should be minimal.
Traffic on St. John's Lane and Route 103, however will be "significantly affected," they warn, particularly by the closure, not yet scheduled, of two ramps connecting U.S. 29 to Columbia Road just south of St. John's Lane.
About 1 1/2 acres of wetlands will be disturbed by the intersection, but the state will compensate by creating a new 7-acre wetland habitat nearby.
State highway engineers are still awaiting federal wetland permits to allow Route 100 to cross the Red Branch.
Once permits are obtained, the state will seek contractors' bids on the Red Branch segment, estimated to take between one and 1 1/2 years to construct.