SHA agrees to study intersection Springfield Avenue, Route 32 one of most congested

$400,000 is available

Temporary traffic signal a possibility

June 02, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The State Highway Administration has agreed to study Springfield Avenue's intersection with Route 32 and may decide to install a temporary traffic signal there to ease one of the most congested intersections in Sykesville.

A permanent solution to the snarled traffic there, though, is probably years away.

Residents disgruntled with traffic volume and what they consider unsafe conditions at Route 32 intersections met Friday with the SHA and county representatives. The residents asked for a moratorium on housing construction until new and better roads are built. They elicited the state's promise to study Springfield Avenue.

"I promise a traffic study and, if warranted, a temporary traffic signal," said Steve McHenry, assistant division chief at the SHA.

Several residents recounted stories of accidents and near-collisions at approaches to Route 32.

"I feel like I am taking my life in my hands at that Springfield intersection," said Kathleen Lauber of Gaither Road, one of about 60 people at the meeting. "We were told 10 years ago that something would be done."

"None of us on Springfield allow our children on the road," said Rene Forsberg. "It definitely warrants a light."

The SHA has made $400,000 available to Sykesville for a traffic signal, which would cost about $80,000, and improvements elsewhere. "Of course, we would rather put up a permanent light at a permanent intersection, but that will take the cooperation of four entities," said McHenry.

The traffic study could take a year and even with a light, Springfield may not be safe, said Steve Horn, county transportation planner. It would be better to close it and build a better road, which the county has been trying to do for 10 years, he said.

The county would like to close Springfield Avenue and realign Obrecht Road around the north end of Fairhaven Retirement Community. The community, home to 450 elderly residents served by as many employees, will not allow the county the easements it needs to realign Obrecht until Third Avenue is extended to the highway from its entrance. The town of Sykesville is pushing for both roads, which would both need a signal. The state will help pay for only one. Nobody seems able to agree.

Meanwhile, 5,000 motorists who struggle with rush-hour traffic jams on Obrecht Road are crying, "Do something!"

"We don't care which way or who builds the road, just do it and give us some relief," said Vince DiPietro, who organized the meeting at Liberty High School. "We are looking for a champion somewhere."

Based on the county's promise to improve Obrecht Road, Sykesville allowed new development -- about 500 homes at the northern edge of town. Those new residents are now adding to the congestion on Obrecht Road.

DiPietro offered a brief history of the failed negotiations between the county and Fairhaven, and he presented slides showing lines of vehicles waiting to get on and off the highway at Springfield Avenue and at Cooper Drive.

Without improvements, Obrecht Road will become a parking lot, he said. Earlier this month, county commissioners, exasperated with Fairhaven's refusal to negotiate, diverted more than $1 million budgeted for Obrecht Road to the Linton Springs school project.

"We disagree with the decision the commissioners have made and are asking the county to reinstate our funds for this project," said DiPietro. "If the decision stands, we demand a moratorium and a rescinding of building permits retroactive to May 8."

For 10 years, the county has owned a right of way across Fairhaven's property, but the terrain and environmental concerns would make construction difficult.

At Fairhaven's request, the county spent $170,000 in 1991 to redesign the road at a point farther north and budgeted the money to build that road three years ago.

"We thought we would have a land swap, one right of way for another," said Horn. "But Fairhaven dug in and we are stuck with an already designed road and no right of way to build it."

Fairhaven has steadfastly refused to grant the county easements. Its representatives also refused to attend the meeting.

"We are willing to build Obrecht Road, if Fairhaven gives us a right of way," said Commissioner Richard T. Yates. "Our problem is conveyance of land."

The commissioners regard Fairhaven as a developer.

"If a developer wants a road, the developer builds it," said Yates. "Fairhaven can build Third Avenue."

The retirement community could break the stalemate, DiPietro said. "Fairhaven is shirking its duty," he said. "It owes the town more respect. It is turning its back on the situation and standing in the way of others."

The state has just started gathering traffic data on Route 32 from Interstate 70 north to Route 26. The results are the first step in a lengthy process that will determine if the highway will be widened to four lanes. The county would like to improve its access roads before the highway comes on line.

"Four lanes should be here now," said DiPietro. "We should be talking about overpasses, not traffic lights."

Pub Date: 6/02/96

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