Gray to seek alternatives to limiting road access

December 14, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Opponents of a resolution to shut off access from Diamondback Drive to Route 29 last night convinced County Councilman C. Vernon Gray to seek alternative solutions to the traffic and safety concerns that spurred the request.

Mr. Gray, D-3rd, sponsored the resolution to close Diamondback Drive after receiving a petition signed by 22 residents. Last night, he said, he will instead ask the county public works department to recommend methods for slowing down motorists getting off Route 29 and to evaluate building more sidewalks to improve safety for children who walk to Thunder Hill Elementary School.

He said he will also ask the county police department to monitor speeding on the road.

The resolution, which was tabled after a Nov. 15 hearing that divided adjoining neighborhoods, most likely won't be voted on, Mr. Gray said, adding that tabled resolutions die after 45 days.

About a dozen Diamondback Drive residents argued last night that the road should be closed because speeding vehicles coming off Route 29 have made conditions dangerous for children.

"The vision here seems evident," said Frank Jenkins, who supports closing the road. "People with children are concerned about safety, and people without children, or who live further away from Diamondback, are less concerned."

Proponents also said Diamondback Drive's at-grade intersection with heavily traveled Route 29 is hazardous for motorists entering and leaving the highway.

But about 75 opponents from surrounding communities and several Diamondback Drive residents attended the meeting with county and state traffic engineers at Thunder Hill Elementary to make their case that closing the road would be too drastic and would cause unnecessary inconveniences.

The opponents contended that they had not noticed any compelling change in traffic conditions or increase in accidents that would warrant closing the road, and that such a measure might only exacerbate traffic problems on other streets in the Thunder Hill neighborhood in Oakland Mills village.

Several opponents said they bought houses in the area precisely because of the convenient access to Route 29, the county's main north-south highway.

"It's a major convenience for me and my family," said Jeffrey Brodsky, who uses the Diamondback Drive exit on his way home from work and other activities in the Washington area. "We need to slow down traffic not just on Diamondback, but in the whole community."

Diamondback Drive, located between Routes 175 and 108, is the only road with access to local neighborhoods remaining with an at-grade intersection with Route 29 through Columbia and Ellicott City. Others have been closed and new ramp interchanges constructed in recent years as part of a plan to convert Route 29 to a "controlled access highway."

Gene Straub, a State Highway Administration traffic engineer for the region, said the state's long-range plans call for closing Diamondback Drive.

Mr. Gray opened the meeting by saying that traffic problems never are simple matters to resolve.

"We'll reach a consensus if at all possible," he said. "I've discovered over the years that road closures are among the most vexing problems we face on the council. They always tend to divide the community."

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