A traffic signal at Newtowne and Forest drives has been installed and will be fully operational today.
Mary Hunt, a longtime resident of Woodside Gardens apartments, and her neighbors along Newtowne Drive have been petitioning officials to install the stoplight for nearly 20 years, because of the difficulty of turning onto heavily traveled Forest Drive.
"Thank God, we got it at last," Mrs. Hunt said yesterday. "I'm not saying it will stop all accidents, but it will help."
"We're dancing in the streets," said Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Democrat representing Ward 5. "Twenty years is a long time to wait."
County traffic engineers had resisted installing a light because the intersection is so close to a signal at Hilltop Lane and Forest Drive. Traffic standards usually call for at least 700 feet between lights; the distance between Newtowne Drive and Hilltop is much less.
City and county officials now agree that the $50,000 signal, whose cost is being shared by the two governments, is a temporary solution.
Eventually, city and county officials say they could eliminate the Newtowne Drive intersection altogether. Under their plan, they would link Greenbriar Lane and Newtowne Drive before the two roads reach Forest Drive, thus creating a single intersection.
Jon Arason, Annapolis' deputy director of planning, said the city is negotiating with the county to extend South Cherry Grove Avenue across Forest Drive and connect it to both Greenbriar Lane and Newtowne Drive.
Then the traffic signal at Newtowne Drive could be moved to the new South Cherry Grove intersection, providing better spacing between the existing signals at Hilltop Lane and Bywater Road, said John Patmore, director of public works for Annapolis.
Mr. Patmore noted that the proposed South Cherry Grove intersection would be about halfway between the lights at Hilltop Lane and Bywater Road.
"I hope it doesn't take as long as it did to get a light at Newtowne," Mr. Snowden said.
Lisa Ritter, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Public Works, said the county will begin designing the new South Cherry Grove intersection next summer. If the design is approved next fall, construction would not begin until summer 1995.
Residents of the Newtowne 20 public housing community and the Woodside Gardens apartment complex have clamored for a traffic signal at Newtowne Drive for several years and once packed a public hearing on the city budget.
"We went to City Hall," Mrs. Hunt said. "We marched from downtown up to the State House. We did everything we could think of."
City officials said the delay was not for lack of trying on their part. "We fought tooth and nail with the county to put up that light as a safety precaution for the Newtowne 20 residents," Mr. Patmore said.
The signal has been flashing yellow since it was installed last week, giving motorists time to become acquainted with it, Ms. Ritter said.