Agency praises highway change Route 100 alignment still debated

June 29, 1993|By Erik Nelson ((TCSO: Staff Writer

State Highway Administration officials last night gave Howard County Council members a glowing presentation on the benefits of a new alignment for Route 100 that would take it through southern Ellicott City and asked for a recommendation from the council by the end of next month.

But SHA Administrator Hal Kassoff told council members that while such action would "strengthen" the process, they have no obligation to express a preference for a particular route.

Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a Democrat who represents the two communities that have favored routes on different sides of the federally protected Deep Run stream, questioned the value of the council's involvement.

"It seems to me that it really doesn't matter what the elected officials think," he told SHA officials assembled in the George Howard county office building.

Mr. Gray pointed out that Howard's elected officials agreed in 1987 to an alignment for the six-lane highway, but federal regulators have, in effect, vetoed it. That route, which was adopted by the SHA in 1989, was scrapped because federal regulators determined that it would harm Deep Run's wetlands.

Then, in October 1991, the SHA proposed a new route that would move the highway about 200 feet north toward Hunt Country Estates, taking two houses in its path.

So for the past 18 months, residents of Hunt Country Estates, who live in detached houses just north of the stream, have fought to keep the road from shifting into their community and they proposed an alternative called the Lazy S. To the south of the stream, residents of condominiums in the Village of Montgomery Run have fought this alternative alignment, which would come within 122 feet of their community.

But Mr. Kassoff said that since a Dec. 1 hearing on both proposed alignments, SHA engineers have come up with a variation of the Lazy S. The new plan takes the road farther away from all but one of the four closest condominium buildings in Montgomery Run, when compared to the original 1989 plan.

Despite being "somewhat disenchanted" with the road's planning, Mr. Gray applauded SHA's efforts to keep the road away from homes.

"I think we are coming very close to an alignment that's a win-win situation for everybody, for Hunt Country Estates and for Montgomery Run," Mr. Gray said.

The new alignment is still too close for Montgomery Run homeowners, said Kim Abramson, who represents the community in the Route 100 debate. "No one is taking into consideration the entire community," she said.

Mr. Gray also said that he was pleased to see that engineers had incorporated one of his suggestions -- shortening the ramps on an interchange with the future Snowden River Parkway extension -- to lessen the impact on the Curtis Farm just south of Montgomery Run.

Mr. Gray said he was concerned about Mr. Kassoff's assertion that the state would provide only limited help for condominium owners affected by noise.

Hunt Country Estates resident Tom O'Brien said he was surprised to hear Mr. Kassoff say publicly that federal regulatory agencies preferred the modified Lazy S. He also noted the difference in impacts on wetlands between the northern and southern alignments.

"I would think that after all they've been through, taking into the consideration the wetlands and the emphasis they're putting on the value of the wetlands, I think they certainly have to be leaning towards the modified Lazy S," he said.

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