The 12-member task force formed earlier this month to study ways to ease traffic congestion at intersections in east Columbia met for the first time last night and reviewed long- and short-term options.
The Route 175 task force plans to make its recommendations in eight weeks.
By then, State Highway Administration officials -- who must approve plans for any new intersection designs -- may have reached a decision about the proposed controversial dispersed movement intersection.
Last night, task force co-chairman Ronald G. Lepson, chief of the county's engineering bureau, reported that County Executive Charles I. Ecker added $15.5 million yesterday to his proposed capital budget to pay for a $14 million partial cloverleaf and some short-term traffic solutions.
Lepson said Ecker acted in case the dispersed movement intersection -- a complicated traffic plan with a series of left-turn lanes and carefully timed signals -- plan isn't approved.
Lepson also said that short-term solutions are critical because traffic will grow more congested when a Target store opens in the new Columbia Crossing retail complex at Route 175 and Dobbin Road and Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway in October.
Previously, Ecker had allocated only $4.6 million for dispersed movement intersections at Route 175 and Dobbin Road and Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway, which many residents in east Columbia opposed.
"It's still the intention of the administration to pursue that alternative [the dispersed movement plan]," Ray Wacks, budget administrator, said earlier yesterday.
During last night's two-hour meeting, county Public Works Director Jim Irvin said plans for the partial cloverleaf, or the dispersed movement intersection, could be adopted because construction hasn't begun yet and only 20 percent of the preliminary designs have been completed.
He joined other county, state and Columbia officials and two citizens who listened to two long-term and interim plans in a conference room at the new county Bureau of Utilities building on Old Montgomery Road in east Columbia. Looking at large maps, they learned how each was designed and functioned.
For example, the cloverleaf, or full movement, graded, separated interchange, allows for free flow of traffic.
One shortfall is that it would complicate traffic on nearby Gateway Drive. Planners would have to make it "driver friendly," said Steven Foster of SHA.
The second long-term plan is the dispersed movement, which has been tested in the United States only at a college on Long Island, New York.
"This is a very different intersection from what you're accustomed to seeing," Foster said, adding later: "Positive guidance [for motorists] is one of the issues that has to be addressed."
Among the short-term traffic options discussed: adding lanes on Route 175, or "the long convoluted detour," which would divert traffic from Route 175 onto a cul-de-sac, Alexander Bell Drive, Foster said.
The task force will meet again 7 p.m. June 5 at the same location.
Pub Date: 5/22/96