Route 32 upgrading is cheered, jeered About 250 turn out at SHA workshop

June 27, 1996|By Erica C. Harrington | Erica C. Harrington,SUN STAFF

A State Highway Administration proposal to expand Route 32 in western Howard County got mixed reviews from residents Tuesday night, with some urging immediate improvements to the road and others warning the project could hurt the area's rural character.

About 250 people attended the SHA workshop at Glenelg High School to review the plans for the upgrading of Route 32 between Route 108 in Clarksville and Interstate 70.

In general, residents agreed that long-term changes must be made to the heavily traveled nine-mile stretch of road, but they also want immediate improvements to provide safer access to the highway from side roads, said SHA Project Manager Robert Sanders.

"Most people realize something needs to be done," he said. "A lot of people want to know what can be done more immediately with left turns from side streets."

But Marsha Gladden, who lives along Route 32, opposes any changes to the road, warning of noise and air pollution. She said that if she had known three years ago of the expansion plans, she wouldn't have moved to the area.

"When people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home, they don't expect that kind of noise," she said. "My neighbors can't sell their house because of it, and I don't think I can sell mine."

The SHA has proposed that the western Howard section of Route 32 be expanded from a two-lane road to a four-lane, limited-access highway with a new median and shoulder. The plan also calls for six new interchanges.

The state would pay for the highway, estimated to cost between $128 million and $148 million, depending on the final design. If approved, construction could begin early in the next century.

On Tuesday night, residents expressed the most concern about the design of the proposed interchange at Burnt Woods Road, saying that part of the interchange should be moved east, closer to the existing highway, Sanders said.

Some residents said the SHA proposal will ease congested conditions on Route 32, which is swollen with traffic coming from Frederick, Carroll and other counties.

West Friendship resident Teresa Stonesifer, who owns a school bus company that serves Glenelg High School, said she has trouble getting on and off the highway while driving her routes.

"They have to do something -- Route 32 is unsafe," said Stonesifer, who lives near the intersection of Route 32 and Route 144. "I can't get in and out with the amount of traffic."

Zafar Handoo, who lives on Broadwater Lane, which parallels Route 32, said he likes the proposals for interchanges, but is concerned about the noise that would come with a bigger road.

"They should have a sound barrier -- otherwise the traffic will be too noisy," he said.

But other residents, such as Marc Liersaph, say the planned expansion would sacrifice Howard's rural character in favor of growth in other parts of the state.

"They're trying to develop this highway for other areas, but people in this area don't feel they should bear the brunt of development to the north," said Liersaph, who has lived in the Fox Valley development for a year. "There's a certain rural atmosphere that a four-lane highway will change."

Brian Muldoon, a Howard County transportation planner, said the county does not intend to change the low-density and rural conservation zoning that already is in place in the Route 32 corridor.

He said any new businesses that may start as a result of the highway would be placed in areas zoned for commercial use, such as the intersection of Route 32 and Route 144.

"There's little possibility that [the zoning] would change if a highway were built," Muldoon said. "The opposition from the community would be formidable."

Muldoon added that Route 32 improvements are not a top priority for the county, citing Route 216 between U.S. 29 and Interstate 95 as its primary concern.

Sanders said it will take a month to review the public comments gathered at the meeting and from comment cards that residents could send to SHA. He said revised plans for the highway will be presented at a public hearing next summer.

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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