East-West Blvd. plans draw frowns Residents find fault with all options CENTRAL COUNTY Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

November 12, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

They covered the walls of Severna Park High School -- long, intricate, sometimes bewildering stretches of maps that explained the state's proposals for East-West Boulevard.

There was Option 2, part of the county's master plan for road development, plowing a new path from Veterans Highway and emerging at Mission Street. There was Option 3, which followed Brightview Drive and Obrecht Road, with three variations, differing in how much the proposed corridor from Ritchie Highway to Veterans Highway would affect Elvaton Park.

Option 4 suggested just widening Benfield Boulevard and Benfield Road. Option 1 was not to build at all.

At a meeting held by the state Monday night, residents perused the visual information, scratched their heads and frowned.

Mostly they frowned. "I am dead set against [a new road]," said Debbie Voight, a Shipley's Choice resident. "If they have to do it, they should widen Benfield Boulevard for $1.6 million instead of spending $21.3 million to divide a neighborhood. We feel like they're pushing it through no matter what we say, and we're really upset. And nobody has proved it will alleviate traffic on Benfield.

"They're wearing everybody down until we give up and are just complacent," she said.

Controversies ranged from those raised by Shipley's Choice residents, who opposed the option that would cut through their community, to those brought up by people who live along Benfield Boulevard and who don't want their children crossing a four-lane highway to get to elementary school. Some residents said no road is necessary.

"By the state's own studies, none of the options do that much for traffic," said Larry Sells, a Shipley's Choice resident. "The whole thing is for the developers, period. Developers east of Route 2 want a high-speed road to Washington or Baltimore."

But Robert Sacha, 67, said Benfield is definitely crowded. "I believe the opposition, after you clear away inaccurate information, is that people don't want the highway in their backyard," said Mr. Sacha, who represents the Fair Oaks community east of Ritchie Highway. "But nobody says that. They have got to dream up some other opposition."

State Highway officials emphasized that all four options -- including not building -- are viable. But an SHA official said the county favors the master plan alignment. A public hearing is set for 4:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Severna Park High School.

The variables in the three building options are myriad. An alternatives summary SHA officials handed out at the meeting listed the effects of the plans and variations on the environment and on households.

For example, the number of homes that would be displaced ranges from none with the Benfield Boulevard option to 12 with a variation on the Brightview Drive-Obrecht Road suggestion. The effect on woodlands ranges from .05 acres lost by widening Benfield Boulevard to 26.93 acres lost under a variation of the master plan.

Discussion of the controversial road has been running since the 1960s, when an East-West Highway project was started. The county in 1988 handed the project over to the state, complete with the master-plan alignment.

The State Highway Administration, says Project Manager Alan Straus, came up with new alternatives to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. This process requires the state to study the effects of alternative corridors to the master plan -- hence the Benfield Boulevard and Brightview Drive-Obrecht Road options.

The Greater Severna Park Council will not take a position on the controversial options until the SHA's December meeting, said President Pat Troy.

Mr. Straus acknowledged that traffic volume along Benfield Boulevard wouldn't be reduced much by any of the options. But, he said, "How much are we willing to let it grow without relief? That's the question."

Mr. Sells was unconvinced. "I've been fighting this for five years," he said. "It's a totally unnecessary project. And the state does not have any extra money to waste, the last time I checked."

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