A road winding through an old firing range at Fort Meade, closed since the start of the Persian Gulf war, has finally been reopened, easing the morning and evening commute for workers at the National Security Agency.
Fort Meade had closed Range Road, a common shortcut forcommuters avoiding bottlenecks on routes 175 and 32, for security reasons. Officials left the road closed at the end of the war because they found incidents of vandalism had stopped almost entirely.
Months of negotiations over the road got nowhere. But on Oct. 1, the land much of the road sits on was transferred to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. The director of the center, Hal O'Connor, saidNSA officials open the gate each morning and patrol the area.
Theroad officially opened Oct. 23. NSA police will unlock the gate eachweekday morning at 5 a.m. and lock it again at 8 p.m. The gate will remain locked on weekends and holidays. The NSA said its police will patrol the road and be responsible for security while it is open.
O'Connor said he is allowing the road to be used because of the NSA patrols.
"NSA wanted to use the road," he said. "Their officials and workers offered to open and close it. We have no problem with people going through."
The road is used by commuters from Bowie, Crofton and Gambrills. Instead of taking Route 3 north to Route 175 and entering the fort at the main entrance on Mapes
Road, they take Route424 to Patuxent Road and then get on Range Road.
Range Road meetsPatuxent Road just before the Piney Orchard development and winds its way through several firing ranges into the heart of Fort Meade. It allows commuters to avoid traffic at routes 175 and 32, which can be backed up for several miles.
When the land was owned by Fort Meade, base spokesman Don McClow said officials had no plans to reopen theroad. He said numerous instances of crime and vandalism stopped altogether once the road was closed.
The opening of the road ends months of negotiations among Patuxent and Fort Meade officials, workers at the NSA and local political representatives, including state Delegate Marsha Perry, D-Crofton, and U.S. Representative Tom McMillen, D-4th.