Road extension to ease access to Columbia Hills

April 25, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

In about a year's time, residents won't have to enter Columbia to get to Columbia Hills.

Not that all residents of the neighborhood mind Columbia, which borrowed the name 26 years ago, after Columbia Hills was established near the site of the old Columbia Post Office. It's just that there is no other way in, except through the "new town."

State Highway Administration planners are designing a road that will extend Sybert Drive north to connect with Long Gate Parkway, now under construction.

For some time, county officials told residents that the project was the state's responsibility, but the state would not pay the cost, estimated at $1 million. Although it will be a county road, the county argued that the state should pay because it wanted to close the community's other access, on to U.S. 29, a state-owned highway. That access was from Sybert Drive.

The state still isn't paying, but now the road will be built with county money, James M. Irvin, countypublic works director, said recently.

"The access road will be very good for our community," said Cathy Hartman, president of the Columbia Hills-Meadowbrook Farms Community Association.

The biggest concern about the road was that motorists leaving a planned regional shopping center on Long Gate Parkway might use it to avoid U.S. 29, said Ms. Hartman, who has been nominated to the county Planning Board.

Then she corrected herself: "Actually, people are not really concerned about that, because we said, 'they'll only do it one time.' "

Anyone who has had to make the series of left and right turns needed to get through the community will understand such logic.

Other concerns have been largely ironed out, Ms. Hartman said.

Some residents were concerned when they discovered that two man-made hills between their homes and U.S. 29 were to be removed.

The hills were created more than 20 years ago as part of a scrapped road project. Under them are two culverts through which the Red Hill Branch flows, said Mark W. Crampton, highway administration project engineer for Route 100 in Howard County.

The access road actually will save one hill. Both were to be leveled to create 4 acres of wetlands to replace wetlands affected by construction ofthe U.S. 29 interchanges with Broken Land Parkway and Route 100.

State highway engineers will retain one of the culverts for the access road's stream crossing. That will save the county the cumbersome, expensive process of obtaining federal permits to disturb wetlands and cross a waterway, Mr. Crampton said.

The project is expected to cost about $1 million and begin in about a month, said Ed Reilly, chief of the county Bureau of Highways. It is expected to be finished before the opening of the U.S. 29-Route 100 interchange, forecast for April 1994.

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