Plans to modify junctions along Route 175 decried Long Reach officials say promise to build cloverleaf was broken

April 04, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

Officials in Columbia's Long Reach village are assailing a new Howard County plan for a series of unusually designed left-turn lanes with their own stop lights at heavily traveled Route 175's intersections with Snowden River Parkway and Dobbin Road.

They contend that the plan announced this week as part of County Executive Charles I. Ecker's capital budget violates promises by county and Rouse Co. officials to build a free-flowing cloverleaf intersection at the Route 175-Snowden River intersection.

They say a cloverleaf is needed to help solve mounting traffic problems in the area and that such a design was promised last summer when Rouse won permission to build another huge shopping center, Columbia Crossing, nearby. It is now under construction along Route 175.

Cecilia Januszkiewicz, chairwoman of the Long Reach Village Board and a vocal critic last summer of the county's approval of the new Rouse center, said she was appalled.

County officials "have backed off their commitment," she said. "It's Pollyanna-ish to believe that anything less than a cloverleaf will solve the problem."

According to county government doc-uments, county and Rouse officials assured Long Reach residents last summer that at the least, the county would build an overpass-style crossing at Route 175 and Snowden River.

"It will be simply a free-flowing interchange with loop ramps and outer ramps," Rouse consultant Marty Wells testified before the Howard County Planning Board July 19, according to a transcript of the hearing provided by the Long Reach Village Board.

The Planning Board assumed that would be done, Chairman Ted Mariani said yesterday, adding, "I can understand why the citizens are upset."

Officials deny promise

A Rouse spokesman said yesterday that Mr. Wells was relying on information supplied by the county, and county officials said they never promised a full-scale cloverleaf.

Officials believe that a new system of left-turn lanes and stop lights -- which would be the second of its kind in the country would be just as efficient, said Public Works Director Jim Irvin.

A key factor is that the new design would cost about $4 million, compared with at least $12 million for the partial cloverleafs, county engineers said.

"We're getting more bang for the buck," said George Frangos, a county traffic engineer.

'Dispersed movement'

The unusual system of left-turn lanes -- called "dispersed movement" is in use only on a sparsely traveled highway on Long Island, N.Y.

"Will the traffic get through there in a certain time? That's the bottom line," Mr. Frangos said.

The "dispersed movement" system would route left-turning cars to new roads parallel to Route 175. The county wants to install such a system at Route 175's intersections with Snowden River and Road.

Although that would add traffic signals, the design speeds up traffic because of the way the signals are timed, engineers said.

"The left-turners aren't penalized," said Long Island traffic engineer Ed Lieberman of KLD Associates, which designed the intersections for the county.

The average motorist now waits more than 60 seconds at Route 175 and Snowden River, Mr. Frangos said, giving the intersection an "F" ranking, the lowest on a traffic engineering scale of "A" to "F."

A modified cloverleaf plan, called a partial cloverleaf -- which would still involve traffic lights, Mr. Frangos said -- would involve a wait for the average motorist of 18.1 seconds. "Dispersed movement" would mean an average wait of 19.2 seconds. Those times would give the intersection a "C" ranking.

Skepticism about the plan abounds among members of the Long Reach Village Board.

"If this is such a great idea, why isn't it used anywhere else?" board member David Zeitzer asked during a Wednesday night meeting.

Plan unclear

It is not clear from records what sort of cloverleaf the county had in mind.

The county's Department of Planning and Zoning and its Planning Board recommended approval for Columbia Crossing based on plans to build a "full-movement, grade-separated interchange" at Route 175 and Snowden River.

Joe Rutter, head of the Planning and Zoning Department, said that category of interchange includes partial cloverleafs with traffic lights, the system the county has said is no better than the "dispersed movement" left-turn lanes.

But Mr. Frangos, the county traffic engineer, said "full-movement" means a system that keeps cars moving. "By gingersnaps, that means no traffic lights," he said.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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