Businesses plead for signs to Odenton Bypass passing them by, they say WEST COUNTY--Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

June 09, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Odenton business leaders, complaining that the new Route 32 extension bypasses their stores and restaurants, are pleading with state highway officials for more signs to direct travelers into their community.

"The Route 32 bypass has taken away one-third of my gasoline business," said Ernie Richards, owner of the Odenton Shell Station on Route 175. "We need signage so people know there are businesses on 175."

Saying many signs on Interstate 97 and Route 32 either neglect to mention Odenton altogether or direct drivers to the wrong place, members of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce met yesterday with representatives from the State Highway Administration.

"I think it is absolutely essential that people have some ease in finding these businesses," said Donna Salisbury, a longtime business owner in Odenton. "It takes people months to find their way around."

But new signs are not all that easy. While the SHA officials said some items on the chamber's long list will be taken care of -- changing a direction that is wrong and moving a sign from the median strip to the right side of the road -- other requests may take some study.

"Some of these are new issues, and we will have to take a look at them," said Ed Paulis, the SHA's chief of traffic engineering. "I know you're not going to like this, but the purpose behind signs is not advertising. It's for directional information."

Chamber members came to the meeting armed with photographs and a two-page list of 12 places where they feel improvements should be made. They include:

* I-97 North at Exit 7: The overhead sign says, "Columbia/Bowie." There is no reference to Odenton or Fort Meade.

JTC * Burns Crossing Road exit: Signs for services, such as gas and food, are located halfway down the ramp and are not visible from Route 32.

* Route 32 off-ramp onto Route 175: Lodging service sign points in wrong direction. Arrow to Odenton only points east, neglecting the northern part of the community -- and many stores -- near Fort Meade.

* Route 32 exit ramp at Burns Crossing Road: There is no sign pointing to Odenton or Route 175. This was of particular concern to many chamber members, who pointed out that Burns Crossing is an access road to the center of Odenton.

Peter Legum, property manager for the Nellis Corp., which owns the Odenton Shopping Center, said he got lost en route to the meeting.

"I had to stop at a resident's home and ask the people how to get to the shoping center," Mr. Legum said, adding that if state and community leaders could coordinate better, it would "save a lot of time and wasted money."

Mr. Paulis said the SHA must adhere to many rules and restrictions, including the number of signs and the amount of written information on them.

Exceeding some of these rules could result in the loss of federal funding. Providing motorists with too much information could result in confusion and car accidents.

"We have provided more signs for Odenton than we normally provide," Mr. Paulis said. He promised the signs sending people in the wrong direction would be replaced. Also planned is a sign on Route 32 that says, "Odenton, Next 3 Exits."

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