If a day-care provider can design a highway, perhaps a county councilman can, too.
County Councilman C. Vernon Gray has asked state highway designers to consider shortening exit ramps on Route 100 to make the road friendlier to wetlands, a change that he says could allow the State Highway Administration to use the highway alignment approved by the county's elected officials in 1987.
"We need to strike a better balance than what we have now," said Gray, a Democrat representing the 3rd District. Two weeks ago, he proposed the idea to Neil Pedersen, SHA's project planning director, whosaid the administration's engineers would study it.
SHA officialstold residents of Hunt Country Estates last fall that federal wetlands protection would force them to move the 1987 alignment 150 feet north. The move would demolish two of the residents' homes and severelyaffect six others, which the state offered to buy.
But officials,notably County Executive Charles I. Ecker, were impressed last monthby an alternative designed by day-care provider Valerie McGuire, whose home would be next to the relocated highway.
Gray sees problems. He says the plan would cut a wide swath through the historic farm owned by Robert L. Curtis Jr.
The state Historic Preservation Office is investigating whether the farm will be eligible for federal protection similar to that given to wetlands.
Also, the farm is part of an area the county has designated for a mixed-use center, which would unite offices, shops and apartments, the latter of which Gray saysthe county doesn't have enough of.
Shortening the ramps could reduce or increase the amount of harm to Deep Run stream wetlands at theSnowden River intersection, said SHA project engineer Mark Crampton.
However, that intersection is not the main problem with the 1987 alignment, he said.
"The biggest problem was the (Route) 100 section itself, which crossed over the stream for 1,100 feet," Crampton said.
While the state continues to juggle plans for the part of Route 100 that runs from Route 104 to Interstate 95, the county and stateare trying to work the kinks out of the segment from Route 104 to the interchange with U.S. 29.
While the $16 million interchange is scheduled to open in late 1993, wetlands problems are delaying the segment that will connect the interchange with a $3 million section built by developer Patrick McCuan, said county Public Works Director James Irvin. The county has set aside $4.1 million to pay for that segment.
"The question is whether the state has to get one wetlands permit for the project or can they do it in a series," Irvin said. If theentire length of Route 100 in the county must have the same permit, connecting U.S. 29 and Route 104 will be tied up along with Hunt Country Estates' wetlands difficulties, he said.
Deciding what to do with that section will depend on when public hearings are held. Once the highway is finally routed, it would take about five years to complete and connect U.S. 29 in Ellicott City with Anne Arundel County.