Task force says road to 175-Snowden relief curves around Rt. 100

June 07, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

County traffic engineers project that short-term road improvements being considered to relieve traffic along Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway could themselves reach saturation by 2005.

The reason, they said at a traffic task force meeting Wednesday night, is increased traffic projected from nearby Route 100, which is due to open to the northeast in 1999.

"The wild card is Maryland 100 -- how it affects the whole mix," said Ronald G. Lepson, chief of the Howard County bureau of engineering and co-chairman of the task force set up to weigh traffic solutions at Snowden River-Route 175 and at nearby Dobbin Road and Route 175.

Said co-chairman Gene Straub, a State Highway Administration engineer: "It's a little bit iffy."

Their comments came at the second meeting of the 12-member task force, formed amid controversy over the county's changing strategy for dealing with traffic at the congested intersections.

That traffic, already swollen by the Snowden Square and Dobbin Center retail centers, is expected to worsen when the giant Columbia Crossing retail complex opens north of the Snowden River-175 intersection this fall.

East Columbia residents had favored a traditional partial-cloverleaf intersection at Snowden River-175 as a long-term solution. But in April, the county unveiled a controversial alternative proposal: a novel type of intersection consisting of timed traffic lights and left-turn lanes.

Called a "dispersed movement intersection," that plan would cost about $4.6 million, compared with $14 million for the partial-cloverleaf many residents favor.

The task force has yet to grapple with the question of whether the dispersed movement intersection or the cloverleaf should be built to handle traffic at that location over the next 25 years.

But at Wednesday night's meeting, task force members reviewed several shorter-term road improvements that could be

put into place this year or next.

The first -- on which construction could begin as early as October or November of this year -- involves widening northbound Snowden River Parkway north of Snowden River and Route 175 and adding a right turn lane from westbound Route 175.

A slightly longer-term plan, on which construction could begin next year, would include similar improvements. In addition, it would widen northbound Snowden River Parkway south of Route 175. That would clear the way for two exclusive left turn lanes onto Route 175.

After Route 100 opens, traffic engineers will count cars and compare the physical numbers to theoretical projections, Lepson said. "We're trying to match needs with timing," he said.

The task force is due to make recommendations to the county and state on the shorter-term recommendations July 10. It will make recommendations on the cloverleaf-vs.-dispersed movement intersection debate sometime this summer. The task force will meet June 19.

Pub Date: 6/07/96

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