Interchange on schedule U.S. 29 may get wider

March 04, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Commuters who have become all too familiar with the Jersey walls along U.S. 29 can take heart.

Not only are State Highway Administration engineers expecting to finish the Route 103-U.S. 29-Route 100 interchange on schedule this summer -- in spite of the weather -- but the county is now negotiating with the state for extra lanes for U.S. 29.

"There's a tremendous amount of tie-ups of traffic southbound in the morning and northbound for the evening rush hour," said County Executive Charles I. Ecker of the traffic jam that sometimes stretches from Route 175 to near U.S. 40.

For that reason, the county is asking the state to add a third lane to both sides of U.S. 29 from Route 175 to the new interchange at Route 100.

Like many other highway projects in the county, this one will not be paid for by the state.

"The state did not have the money, so we are providing it," Mr. Ecker said. "Whether we get repaid or . . . when we get repaid, who knows?"

County Public Works Director James M. Irvin estimated that the additional two lanes for the 2 1/2 -mile stretch would cost about $3 million. Up to 10 percent of that will go to the state for designing the road. The state, however, has agreed to cover minor administrative costs, he said.

"We would like to get it done before the [Route 100] interchange is finished," Mr. Irvin said. "We don't want to go through another construction phase on Route 29."

It is uncertain whether the project to widen Route 29 could be added to the current interchange contract and finished so quickly, however.

Larry O. Patterson, SHA project coordinator for Howard County, said highway contractors expect to finish on time in July.

Meeting that deadline is possible because the record cold temperatures and ice storms came at a time when contractors were doing structural work, such as installing steel beams for the bridge connecting southbound U.S. 29 with eastbound Route 100, Mr. Patterson said.

Work more affected by foul weather, such as grading and paving, will not begin until next month, he said.

Mr. Patterson added that the weather caused some minor delays in work such as creating replacement wetlands and storm water management systems to catch silt and pollution.

"With all this snow and the way that the ground's been saturated, if they get off to a late start this spring, then it could affect that July date," he said.

Last fall, optimistic state engineers said they expected the interchange to be completed by May, well ahead of schedule.

The interchange's opening is planned to coincide with the completion of two mile-long sections of Route 100 -- one built by developer Patrick McCuan -- that will provide a two-lane link from U.S. 29 to Route 104, just north of Route 108. The last section of Route 100 in Howard County, from Route 104 to Interstate 95, is not expected to be completed until 2000.

When the highway is finished, Route 100 will link Ellicott City with Pasadena in Anne Arundel County, as well as Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Interstate 95 and a planned MARC commuter rail station in Dorsey.

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