A Neighbor's Plea for Mercy HOWARD COUNTY

January 05, 1993

The temptation for Howard officials to say "we told you so" to neighboring Montgomery County officials must be almost overwhelming these days.

Folks in Montgomery, belatedly we might say, are concerned about traffic congestion along U.S. 29, especially if Howard County moves ahead with a comprehensive rezoning plan that would allow a mixed-use development near Fulton. The development, which could bring up to 9,000 new homes to the area, would add significantly to traffic along the Route 29 corridor.

Expressing his county's alarm over the project, Montgomery transportation planning director John L. Clark said, "The conditions on 29 now are at saturation levels. The state does not now have the funding to make improvements to 29, so we are concerned about anything that would generate additional traffic."

Some Montgomery residents voiced similar concerns at a public hearing held not long ago by Howard officials.

Too little, too late, we might say. Howard officials deserve some credit for their visionary approach to Route 29, moving over the last decade to convert the artery to a freeway by eliminating traffic signals and limiting access from side roads.

Montgomery officials, on the other hand, chose to leave the traffic signals in place, concentrating instead on road widening and commuter bus service. That approach has exacerbated bottlenecks and traffic jams along the Montgomery portion of the road. The bottom line is that Montgomery was poorly served by its planners and undoubtedly regrets the direction it took.

Nevertheless, Howard officials must be mindful of Montgomery concerns. County Executive Charles I. Ecker is taking a reasonable approach by assuring Montgomery officials that the county will cooperate on promoting transportation alternatives, including the possibility of more park-and-ride lots and bus service for commuters.

Beyond that, however, Montgomery's pleas for mercy should be ignored so long as Howard County's best interest is served by proceeding with the rezoning in question.

Neighborliness is something Montgomery officials should have considered when they made the wrong turn on Route 29 years ago.

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