Motorists' lives made a little easier by opening of Columbia bridges 'It's incredible!' a driver exclaims

September 27, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

The driver of the red compact dutifully slowed down as the traffic light at U.S. 29 at South Entrance Road in Columbia changed from green to yellow Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps by habit, he stopped for a signal that had become a flashing yellow warning.

About 15 minutes earlier on Wednesday, the light at Owen Brown Road also had begun flashing caution.

At about 1:45 p.m. the $23 million U.S. 29 interchange with Broken Land Parkway opened to traffic after two years of construction, a decade of planning and more than two decades on Columbia's drawing board.

"I think it's incredible!" said David Solomon, 20, just after he rounded the new high-speed ramp from northbound U.S. 29 to the westbound parkway.

Mr. Solomon said the new interchange will take 10 minutes off of his afternoon commute from the University of Maryland at College Park to his home in the Bryant Woods neighborhood.

"I always have to wait at the light down at South Entrance Road," he explained as he waited to turn left at the end of Broken Land Parkway on to Little Patuxent Parkway.

Along with the Seneca Drive interchange that opened two weeks ago, the interchange enabled the closings of U.S. 29 intersections with Owen Brown Road, Bradley, Seneca and Allview drives.

Besides speeding U.S. 29 traffic, the interchange also provides a direct link between Town Center and the eastern villages of Owen Brown and Kings Contrivance.

Finishing touches on the new road network are expected to be completed by year's end. Until then, motorists will have to contend with a short merge lane from the eastbound parkway onto southbound U.S. 29 and intermittent lane closures for road resurfacing.

The opening was marked by a ribbon-cutting attended by about 100 people who stood atop the parkway bridge over U.S. 29. State Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer, County Council members, state legislators, Rouse Co. executives and SHA officials and workers heard speeches and ate brie on crackers in the chill wind.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker missed the event, going instead to Annapolis to negotiate how much of the latest round of state budget cuts will be absorbed by Howard County.

Mr. Lighthizer noted the interchange's award-winning environmentally sensitive design, which included using tree roots and branches instead of man-made materials to shore up the banks of the Little Patuxent River.

State Del. Virginia Thomas, D-Columbia, said she is organizing volunteers to replant trees uprooted by the project.

"We're delighted that the road is opening. It will dramatically ease some real problems that we had on Owen Brown Road," said Joan Lancos, president of the Sebring Civic Association. Traffic waiting to cross or get onto U.S. 29 would often back up to Sebring Drive, she said.

"I'm probably the only person in the history to say to the State Highway Administration 'It's OK to build a road in my back yard,' " she said.

"We actually testified in '86 in favor of the interchange."

Mrs. Lancos said the neighborhood had some questions about the design of the interchange, but most of them were answered by SHA planners.

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