Residents of the Forest Villa community of Annapolis demanded satisfaction from the State Highway Administration -- and got it.
At a news conference yesterday, Annapolis Ward 3 Alderman Sam Gilmer and Forest Villa residents praised a plan that will allow eastbound vehicles from Forest Drive to enter the community directly.
A previous plan called for an unbroken median island on Forest Drive, extending from Chinquapin Round Road to Bywater Road. The island would have forced Forest Villa residents to make U-turns at either end of the island to enter their community by Louis Drive. Leaving, they would be forced to turn west on Forest Drive. Louis Drive is the only entrance to the small neighborhood.
After residents and Gilmer raised concerns, the SHA worked out the new plan, which was finalized last Friday. A break will be placed in the median and a left-turn lane for eastbound vehicles added. Everyone seems satisfied.
"We're here today to thank [SHA] for at least giving some relief," said a visibly happy Gilmer. Forest Villa, which is in Ward 4, will become part of Ward 3 when redistricting goes into effect in January.
"It's good to see a situation where we can accommodate the community," said Billy O'Neill, area engineer for the SHA.
"It feels great now. It seems that they made a big improvement," said Ralph Gibson, 72, a resident of the 47-home community since 1958.
The community first complained about Forest Drive improvements in 1985, when SHA officials sought to close Louis Road altogether and unblock Lincoln Drive, which dead-ends before reaching an industrial park off Chinquapin Round Road.
"They really weren't giving us anything," recalled Victor Shelton, spokesman for the about 100 residents of Forest Villa.
Shelton, 56, said the plan was reworked after residents petitioned the SHA, with concerns over commercial traffic on Lincoln Drive's narrow streets, hazards to children, noise and declining property values.
At the time, the two parties agreed that Louis Drive would remain open, with an unbroken median and no left-turn exit or entrance fronting the community.
But after watching the construction on Forest Drive recently, residents decided that wouldn't work either. So they contacted Gilmer, arranged a meeting in May with SHA officials and worked out the final configuration of the Louis Drive entrance.
"I think it's pretty nice at this stage of construction that the state could come back and make some alterations," said Shelton.
But the neighborhood has lost it's share of battles, said Gilmer, who indicated the commercial development surrounding Forest Villa on all sides. "It's always been a victim of circumstances," he said.