Better roads won't give fanseasy access

March 12, 1994|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Sun Staff Writer

Even if major improvements are made to roads leading to a proposed football stadium in Laurel, traffic would be formidable, and the ordeal of getting to and from the facility would be worse than that faced by fans at the Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in

Washington, a consultant's report concludes.

Despite the findings of the government-sponsored study, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and legislative leaders this week announced that traffic problems raise "no substantial impediments" to building a Redskins stadium in Laurel.

Yet the $150,000 study predicts that Interstate 95, the state's most heavily traveled artery, would experience stop-and-go traffic for two hours before games, slowing cars and trucks to a 15-mph crawl. The jam would be even worse on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, with traffic almost twice as heavy as during morning rush hour.

After games, it would take one hour and 50 minutes for most of the 25,000 cars to leave the 78,600-seat stadium's parking lots, according to the study. Even 56,880-seat RFK with a mid-city location generally takes no more than 90 minutes to clear its lots.

"The reality is that eight to 10 times a year, there would be heavy traffic on Sunday mornings and afternoons in the vicinity," said State Highway Administrator Hal Kassoff. "But there's not a stadium in the country that doesn't have congestion as a result of an event."

Financed by the state and Anne Arundel County and prepared by three consultants -- Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, The Wilson T. Ballard Co., and Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson -- the study examines the traffic repercussions under four scenarios.

The most likely of those scenarios, the one that state officials have endorsed, would require $52 million in infrastructure improvements. Those include $46 million in roads and $6 million for a commuter rail station at the stadium.

Consultants employed by Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke fTC have disputed some of the study's findings. One of the key differences is how many fans will share rides.

The state study anticipates an average of 2.8 passengers per vehicle based on the level of car pooling at stadiums housing the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions and a 2.45 average at RFK. Mr. Cooke's consultants suggest that the number in each car will be closer to 3.5, the rate in Atlanta and Dallas.

The difference is critical. With the higher estimate, the number of vehicles traveling to the games drops by 20 percent from 22,870 to 18,300.

"Laurel is a unique site that differs substantially with the four in the report," said Alan M. Rifkin, Mr. Cooke's Annapolis lobbyist.

Cooke representatives argue that the Redskins would likely offer incentives for car pools, such as discounted parking.

On the other hand, the report makes assumptions that would seem to be favorable to Mr. Cooke. It assumes that 16.1 percent of fans will arrive by mass transit, nearly as high a percentage as achieved by Oriole Park at Camden Yards -- a far more transit-accessible facility.

To achieve such a high level of transit use, the Laurel stadium would have to attract about 50 percent more fans by charter bus than RFK and more than twice as many fans using commuter rail as at Camden Yards.

Mr. Cooke's traffic consultants are expected soon to produce their own report, which postulates a 20 percent transit use.

Much of the highway improvement recommended under the state study involves upgrading and widening Routes 198, 216 and 197, U.S. 1, Whiskey Bottom Road, and the I-95 and B-W Parkway interchanges.

The study offers the possibility of adding a lane to I-95 and widening the B-W Parkway between the Capitol Beltway and Route 198. That would raise the cost from $52 million to as much as $186 million.

Still, the expected traffic jams may not be as bad for fans as they seem at first glance. Two hours of stop-and-go traffic on a highway doesn't mean any particular vehicle will be stuck for two hours; it's equivalent to what morning rush-hour commuters face on the west side of the Baltimore Beltway.

A Redskins ticket-holder would face an average 39-minute journey from the Capitol Beltway to the stadium and, after the game, about 16 minutes to get from the parking lot to I-95, the report concludes.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.