Hoping to alleviate the traffic congestion at one of Howard County's most crowded areas, county and state officials will unveil two plans tomorrow night for improving the Route 175-Snowden River Parkway intersection.
One proposal is to add lanes to Snowden River to allow more cars to pass through the intersection during each green light. The other -- the one preferred by state and county planners -- is to construct a partial cloverleaf interchange that would remove the stoplight and permit traffic to pass over Snowden River without stopping.
"There is a lot of traffic going through there," said Norie Calvert, the state project engineer overseeing the work. "It is already beyond the limits of the intersection."
Traffic in the area has increased markedly in the last year with the development of Snowden Square, a 40-acre retail and restaurant center that includes such high-volume retailers as Best Buy, Marshall's Department Store, Hechinger and BJ Wholesale Club.
The state grades how well its intersections are working on a scale of "A" to "F," with A being very good and F being a failure. The Route 175-Snowden River intersection is an E, Ms. Calvert said.
With traffic along Snowden River expected to increase by 105 percent when the Route 100-Snowden River interchange is completed in 1999, state and county officials believe that expanding the number of lanes on Snowden River would be a futile short-term solution.
"Even is we maximized the intersection design [by adding lanes], by 2015 the level of service would be an F. This quick fix would not last," Ms. Calvert said.
The estimated cost of the interchange is $8 million, while expanding the number of lanes on Snowden River would cost $1 million, according to the state's description of the project. Whichever alternative is chosen would be completed at the same time as the Route 100-Snowden River interchange, and the county already has allocated the money to pay for the work from its excise tax on development.
The Long Reach Village Board already has expressed some of its views, asking the county and state to take a closer look at the dangers an interchange might cause.
In an Oct. 25 letter, the board agreed that traffic has created "unacceptable delays at this intersection" but warned of "the impact such an interchange would have on safety at the Route 175-Route 108 intersection."
"We don't necessarily object to the interchange," said Cecilia Januszkiewicz, the board's chairwoman. "We just don't think the solution should be done in isolation. They should look at it as it would affect traffic on Route 175 from Route 1 to Route 29."
Motorists often drive quickly along Route 175, sometimes speeding up to get through intersections on yellow lights.
A Columbia woman was killed and her son severely injured in April 1993 when a dump truck with faulty brakes ran a red light at the intersection of Route 175 and Thunder Hill Road.
Oakland Mills village resident Sharon Gooden, who began a campaign to persuade motorists to stop at red lights along Route 175 after the accident, praised the proposed interchange after hearing its details.
"The main cause of accidents is a car being rear-ended when it stops for a red light," Ms. Gooden said.
"If they eliminate the light, it will eliminate one more scene where there is the potential for accidents."
The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Hammond High School, 8800 Guilford Road.