Some Good Dirt on State Government

April 15, 1994

Who would have thought dirt could be so useful?

Residents of a tony subdivision in Howard County called River Glen wanted a barrier between their homes and nearby highways. The neighborhood is at U.S. 29 and Route 32, a few miles from Interstate 95 and the site of the tragic Pam Basu carjacking two years ago.

The area doesn't qualify for the noise walls that the state has erected around sections of the Baltimore Beltway and at I-95 in Elkridge in recent years. (Besides, those walls, while effective, aren't the most eye-pleasing.) River Glen homeowners are also considering erecting their own 1,600-foot wooden fence, but that cost could run close to $85,000.

The State Highway Administration has another offer on the table that might be the best of all: Build a 10-foot-high berm as a sound barrier with 370,000 cubic yards of dirt left over from the nearby Route 32 widening, and plant grass and trees on top of it. The River Glen folks are still mulling over their options, but whether or not they settle on this one, it seems like an idea with great potential.

It's not totally new, either. Some private developers have built earthen mounds around their projects as aesthetic buffers, as well as to save the cost of trucking out tons of excavated material. The highway administration also recently used this technique elsewhere in Howard County, to partially hide the Brampton Hills community from the new extension of Route 100. This dirt recycling may not be glamorous, but it's a good idea that certainly meets the principles behind the U.S. transportation program known as "Iced T." These berms can be aesthetically pleasing, environmentally sound and can save money to boot.


SPEAKING OF ROADS AND THE ENVIRONMENT: The state departments of Transportation and Natural Resources hope for a large turnout of volunteers at "Project Cloverleaf" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow. Volunteers and government employees will plant thousands of trees and shrubs to green up the new Broken Land Parkway interchange at Route 29 in Columbia. It's a good way to get some sun, some exercise and beautify the community. Information: 974-3776 or 859-7307.

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