The long-awaited completion of the Route 32 extension in western Anne Arundel County is expected by the end of October, as long as no dramatic weather surprises pop up, state officials say.
That is good news for Odenton residents and commuters who constantly fight traffic congestion and new traffic patterns.
State Highway Administration (SHA) officials say they are planning an opening ceremony for the last week in October, six weeks from now. "If the weather keeps up, nothing will affect the planned opening," said Roger Brown, the project manager for the SHA.
The $24 million project in West County is part of a $200 million Route 32 overhaul that eventually will turn the state road into a highway linking U.S. Route 29 in Columbia with Interstate 97 -- the new highway providing direct access from Baltimore to Annapolis.
Route 32 now ends at Route 175 between Fort Meade and Odenton. Commuters wishing to pick up either Route 3 to Crofton or I-97 to Baltimore or Annapolis must take the crowded Route 175, which can back up for miles during the daily commutes.
When the project is completed next month, drivers will be able to stay on Route 32 to I-97. New interchanges at Route 175, Route 170 and Burns Crossing Road are nearly complete, Mr. Brown said. The interchange at I-97 has been finished for several months.
The Route 32 upgrade near the National Security Agency, just east of the Howard County line, is part of a separate contract and is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 1993.
Mr. Brown, at a community meeting in Odenton last week, agreed with residents that the traffic situation, due partly to construction, is a mess. People voiced loud complaints about the work at Burns Crossing Road, where a new traffic pattern diverts drivers in a seemingly bizarre way.
Motorists traveling east on Burns Crossing who want to take I-97 north must take a detour that at first seems to take them in the opposite direction. Missing the warning signs could prove hazardous because cars could head the wrong way on a temporary one-way road.
"We stayed out there for two solid nights in a row, all night long, because people are confused," Mr. Brown said. "It is hard to change people's driving habits."
But drivers will have to change again when the road is completed. Mr. Brown said the final version of the Burns Crossing interchange will be opposite of the way the temporary configuration is set up now. But Mr. Brown and other officials said the final road will be easy to follow and should alleviate the traffic gridlock that Odenton now faces.
"It's nice to know the road is going to open before spring time," said Sally Shoemaker, the vice president of the Greater Odenton Improvement Association. "I'm glad I don't have to drive the roads the way they are now like all the other people."
Ms. Shoemaker said she wants to see for herself just how much the traffic situation eases downtown. "I'll sit and watch and see what happens," she said. "I want to see firsthand any differences."
Ms. Shoemaker said she is still concerned about the number of cars that will have to use Route 175 to get to the Maryland Rail Commuter train station, located off Odenton Road. The intersection of Route 170 (Piney Orchard Boulevard) and Odenton Road usually is backed up and could get worse as cars come down from Route 32, she said.
"There is a tremendous amount of traffic there," Ms. Shoemaker said. "The traffic light on Odenton Road is not adequate to accommodate the traffic."
But state highway officials are optimistic the new road will solve a lot of problems.
"I remember people saying I-97 would be a road never used," Mr. Brown told residents at the Odenton meeting. "Now, I can't imagine how people could get to Annapolis the old way."