After 17 years of fighting heavy traffic past their homes, residentsof Oakland Mills Road, Sohap Lane and Thunder Hill Road are finally seeing some action, but they aren't all sure what it will accomplish.
The county's proposed fiscal 1993 capital budget includes $100,000 for the design of a new intersection that will connect Oakland Mills Road to Route 175 between Tamar Drive and Thunder Hill Road.
The theory is that motorists who now use Oakland Mills as a shortcut between the intersection of Route 175 and Thunder Hill will use the connection to get onto Route 175. That would take heavy traffic off the northernmost segment of Oakland Mills Road and Sohap Lane, which connects Oakland Mills Road to Thunder Hill Road.
Al Dunn, chairman of the Oakland Mills village association board, believes it wouldreduce neighborhood traffic substantially.
But Oakland Mills Roadresident George Hayward, who has helped organize his neighbors in the latest effort to close the road, has mixed feelings about the $3 million project.
"If they just make the connection between Oakland Mills and 175, I'm not certain it's going to help any," he said. "It'sjust going to add another intersection to 175."
Hayward said he believes that even with the proposed intersection, motorists will use the two-lane road to avoid lights on Route 175.
"The only way thatI think an intersection would help is if they closed Oakland Mills Road between the intersection of Tamar Drive and Sohap," he said.
But county Public Works Director James M. Irvin said traffic studies indicated that motorists would avoid the neighborhood.
The county Planning Board will hear testimony on the proposed intersection at 10:30 a.m. April 28 in the George Howard county office building.
The issue has been discussed off and on since 1975.
"Since then, the traffic's gone from a few hundred cars a day to a few thousand cars a day," Dunn said.
Residents who live along the three streets complain that they have to wait long periods just to get out of their driveways, and they fear their children may become victims of speeding traffic. The passing motorists often leave discarded trash, they say.
They wanted to close the road, but efforts to do so, such as a 1988 resolution by Councilman C. Vernon Gray, were defeated. Recent suggestions to make the road one-way were also rejected by county highway officials.
Dunn, who lives on Thunder Hill Road, said motorists cutting through the neighborhood come from Owen Brown village and other areas of Oakland Mills, as well as from outside of Columbia.
For example, motorists who live in Ellicott City and work in Fort Meade have been known to pass through.
"They come down (U.S. Route) 29, and they get to just before Columbia. They know they're going to have to sit through three or four lights, so they get off on 175 and take Thunder Hill, Sohap, Oakland Mills, Snowden River and 32, and they're on their way to Fort Meade," Dunn said.
"I recently had a problem backing out of my driveway, with a person behind me honking at me, saying I had cut her off. Turns out she worked at the same office park as I do and was coming from Laurel."