No-bid pact sought for Route 175 improvements County engineer favors Rouse Co. subsidiary

June 21, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

Howard County's chief engineer plans to ask the county to let a Rouse Co. subsidiary design and construct some much-needed and immediate road improvements along Route 175 to accommodate traffic from this fall's opening of Columbia Crossing retail complex.

Ronald G. Lepson, the county engineer, outlined that plan Wednesday night at a meeting of a task force weighing traffic control alternatives for the clogged Route 175-Snowden River Parkway and Route 175-Dobbin Road intersections.

If the council approves, he said, Rouse's Howard Research and Development (HRD) subsidiary would be given a contract to do the road work without a competitive bid. "It's not a common practice, but it's not unusual," said Lepson, task force co-chairman. He added that HRD and the county have a similar agreement for road improvements being done on Little Patuxent Parkway near The Mall in Columbia.

Cathy Lickteig, a Rouse Co. spokeswoman, agreed that the arrangement is not that unusual. "The Rouse Co. is considering the request and will analyze the designs and come up with an estimate," she said.

A public hearing would be held July 15. If the resolution were to be approved, the county and HRD would enter into an agreement to get "fair and reasonable" price proposals, Lepson said. Construction could begin by late August or early September.

The county would pay for the project, though a price hasn't been determined yet.

These immediate road improvement proposals come as the county grapples with how to handle long-term traffic expected along Route 175 in east Columbia.

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

The long-term solution at Snowden River-Route 175 would be either a controversial proposed $4.6 million interchange consisting of timed traffic lights and left-turn lanes or a $14 million partial cloverleaf that had been the original design before the county opted for the other design in April.

The task force set up to study Route 175 traffic solutions is due to make recommendations to the county and state later this summer on short-term and long-term options.

The most immediate improvements -- which could be carried out by HRD -- include a left-turn lane at northbound Snowden River Parkway to westbound Route 175; a left-turn lane on southbound Snowden River Parkway to eastbound Route 175; and an additional through lane on northbound Snowden River Parkway north of Route 175.

Lepson said that since HRD has equipment, contractors and engineers in the area and has an interest in the improvements it makes sense for the Rouse subsidiary to do them.

If the improvements aren't done later this year, it could cause a six-month delay in traffic accommodations for the opening of Columbia Crossing, he said.

At Wednesday night's meeting, Alex Hekemian, a task force member who represents the Columbia Council, said he supports the immediate improvements, but wants the county to go directly from there to a long-term solution for Route 175's traffic problems.

Lepson said he also will ask for conceptual designs for a long-term solution at Route 175 and Dobbin Road to balance the proposed long-term solution at Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway.

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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