Route 32 widening plan is progressing State highway officials will review options for upgrading tonight

June 25, 1996|By Erica C. Harrington | Erica C. Harrington,SUN STAFF

The expansion of Maryland Route 32 through western Howard County -- in the works for three decades as part of a plan to improve traffic flow across the state -- is inching closer to reality.

The latest milestone will be at Glenelg High School tonight, when State Highway Administration officials outline options for upgrading a nine-mile stretch of Route 32 between Route 108 and Interstate 70, turning the two-lane road into a four-lane, limited-access highway.

That upgrade -- sometime early next century, if everything goes as planned -- would be the final piece of the 40-mile Patuxent Freeway linking Annapolis to I-70 at a time when the populations of Carroll, Frederick and other Maryland counties continue to grow.

Last month, at the urging of Carroll officials, the SHA began an $18,000 traffic study of the 7.5-mile segment of Route 32 from I-70 to Route 26. A 1994 state traffic volume map, the latest available, estimated that 15,200 vehicles used that segment of the road daily.

County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said widening Carroll's portion of the road is "absolutely essential" to the county's transportation needs and its economic development.

Its path through Sykesville and Eldersburg in Carroll's principle growth area makes expansion a top priority, said Steven C. Horn, the county's senior transportation planner. He said the two counties are working well together on highway improvements, but added that "Carroll County would like to see it sooner" than Howard County.

"We can't get too parochial about our roads," he said. "These roads are regional."

Howard County officials say expansion of Route 32 will not change the residential zoning of the area immediately around it. But real estate agents say a four-lane highway will make western Howard even more attractive and

convenient for new homebuyers.

"When a major road is put in, it has a magnet effect because of accessibility," said Jim O'Conor, chairman of O'Conor, Piper and Flynn Realtors. "People can get to where they want to go quicker."

Residents whose homes lie in the project's path have a less positive view.

"It's inevitable that expansion is going to happen -- but I didn't know it was this soon," said Gary Wilson, who did not know about the project when he and his family moved to a 7-acre farm in West Friendship in April 1995.

"I moved out here to keep [my sons] from running in the street -- I guess they won't run in the interstate."

State highway officials are in the midst of a $1 million planning study involving improvements to Route 32 in western Howard that they say will ease traffic congestion and make the route safer. Officials stress that the Route 32 improvements have not been funded beyond the planning study they will discuss tonight, and the process for final approval and funding could take another four to five years.

The state would pay the cost -- estimated at $128 million to $148 million, depending on the final design -- and the county has no plans to pick up the costs, Public Works Director Jim Irvin said.

As proposed, SHA would add two traffic lanes, a median and a shoulder. The existing two lanes of Route 32 would become the westbound lanes of the highway.

The roadway would have six new controlled-access interchanges: Linden Church Road; State Highway Administration's Dayton Shop; Burnt Woods Road; Rosemary Lane at Nixon's Farm; Route 144; and I-70.

The project is designed to accommodate cross-county traffic from Frederick, Carroll and beyond, and it would add a significant artery to a section of Howard where the population is booming.

County planning department projections show that 337,970 people will live in Howard County in 2020 -- and 20,241 of whom will live in the area around Route 32.

Carl Balser, Howard County chief of transportation planning, said there is no immediate need for construction along Route 32, but the SHA planning study is meant to address the county's needs in 2020.

"We need an idea of what the road should look like," Balser said. "When the demand has built up 10 years from now, they don't have to go back to square one and study in a panic situation."

The public can review the progress of the SHA study from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Glenelg High School, 14025 Burnt Woods Road.

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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