Route 100 vs. parkland HOWARD COUNTY

October 20, 1992

Is the Route 100 corridor that is being constructed to link Howard County to Anne Arundel County so critical that parkland has to be destroyed? The answer is yes. And yet residents who have fought different aspects of this project for so long are not likely to agree with that conclusion and will continue fighting this vital connector.

The concerns they raise about open space that the county had previously designated but now seems willing to let go of are legitimate from an environmental standpoint. Yet those arguments fail to balance other benefits in the process.

What the Route 100 project will ultimately do is provide a needed, valuable thoroughfare between Route 29 in Ellicott City and Interstate 97, which runs between Baltimore and Annapolis.

In addition to the environmental plus of reducing pollution by moving traffic more quickly between these jurisdictions, the easy access provided by the link could be an important tool for business development in both Howard and Anne Arundel counties. Until the project is completed, traveling from Howard to Annapolis can involve any number of indirect and time-consuming routes. The result: Local roads are needlessly clogged, worsening pollution.

None of this makes it less painful when a meadow is destroyed or a tree cut down. But that is inevitably what will happen if this project, more than 20 years in the making, is finally to proceed.

For the residents concerned about the Red Hill Branch Park or the open space abutting the Hunt Country Estates residential development, both of which may be affected by Route 100 construction, there is a small bright spot. Local officials cannot, because of federal environmental regulations, destroy county open space in one area without replacing it in another.

For those who live in Hunt Country Estates, there is another reason to hope. State and local officials are still reviewing a handful of other options that could avoid taking open space so close to their homes. State officials want County Executive Charles Ecker, the county council and the county's legislative delegation to get together by January and make a decision on which alternative is preferable. Balanced consideration should be given to all options. In the final analysis, however, the Route 100 extension is a project whose time has come.

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