County expects Route 100 windfall East-west artery planned since 1960s

April 08, 1996|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Three decades in the making -- but still three years away -- the new Route 100 is close enough to completion that Howard County officials and business people are salivating in anticipation of the highway's potential economic benefits.

They hope a windfall will follow Route 100 from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport corridor, the Baltimore region's major economic growth generator.

The new highway will put Howard that much closer to the airport -- and that carries the potential for a lot more jobs to come to the county.

"Transportation is one of the cornerstones of the economic vitality of the region," said James M. Irvin, director of the county's Public Works Department.

"Howard promotes its transportation accessibility, and the opening of Route 100 obviously improves our ability to sell ourself as a region."

Planned since the early 1960s, the $231 million, four- and six-lane project -- linking Ellicott City, BWI and Pasadena in Anne Arundel County -- has been repeatedly delayed because of its potential impact on neighborhoods and protected wetlands.

But it was deemed an important enough project by county officials not to have been forgotten through the years.

In fact, of the major highway projects being planned, built and studied in the county, none would be as economically beneficial as the extension and widening of Route 100, county officials and business operators say.

The county is so eager for the project to be completed that it contributed about $15 million to the building of the highway to keep the Howard segments of the route a priority, Mr. Irvin said.

"The alternative was for the road not to get built and to suffer the consequences," he added.

Key east-west artery

Said Richard Story, executive director of the county's Economic Development Authority: "Transportation drives growth. Howard County's development in all sectors has benefited from an exceptionally good road system."

But Howard's major shortcoming, he said, is that many of the county's main roads run north-south, which makes it difficult to reach from the BWI corridor.

With Route 100's completion in 1999, it will serve as a much-needed east-west artery tying Howard to the region's prime business lure and job generator.

It also could intensify Howard County's competition with Anne Arundel County. But economic officials doubt they will see much bickering.

"Both counties realize that if a firm locates in one jurisdiction, it'll create jobs for workers in the other," said Neil Shpritz, director of the BWI Business Partnership Inc., a nonprofit organization that represents a group of employers near the airport.

Broadening labor pool

Rosemary Duggins, marketing director for Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp., the county's quasi-governmental agency, said the route will benefit both areas by broadening the labor pool available to employers in the corridor.

"When you're on Route 100, you're going to be hard pressed to tell what county you're in," she said.

"It'll make the region shrink."

Howard is promoting the development potential along its six-mile stretch of the route. A number of office and business parks have already sprouted.

In February, the Manekin Corp. announced plans to build a $30 million, 223-acre mixed-use park -- featuring warehouses, offices, loading docks and some retail stores -- on Route 100 between U.S. 1 and Interstate 95. A portion of the construction should be completed next year, said Donald Manekin, the company's senior vice president.

Relief for commuters

Because of Route 100's links to I-95 and the airport, "we recognized Route 100 as an exceptional location from the very beginning," he said.

In addition to its economic benefits, the route's completion is expected to have its biggest impact on relieving commuters tired of the difficult east-west trips in the region.

Routes 103, 104 and 108 "have suffered a whole lot from congestion," said Mr. Irvin, the county's public works director. "They weren't designed to handle such volume."

Ellicott City and Elkridge residents have been promised an uninterrupted Route 100 so long that Elkridge Community Association President Linda Carey says she remembers that when she moved to Dorsey in the early 1970s, a real estate agent gushed over the planned road.

Since then, she has watched her daughter progress from first grade to college and has relocated her family to Hanover.

"When we moved we were given the impression Route 100 would open sometime in the near future," Ms. Carey said. "We're still waiting."

Pub Date: 4/08/96

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