Benfield Road changes are opposed Build east-west route sooner, residents ask

July 19, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

More than 100 Severna Park residents have delivered a message to county highway officials: Don't change Benfield Road; develop East-West Boulevard.

The residents showed up Wednesday night at the Severna Park branch of the Anne Arundel County public library system to protest a county plan to divide the single eastbound lane of Benfield into two lanes.

The Department of Public Works has proposed adding the second lane just east of Windward Drive and extending it east to Knollwood Drive.

The work, expected to cost several thousand dollars, would not begin until October.

"Leave the road alone," said Andy Macko, who uses the road every day to drive to work in the Westinghouse Industrial Park near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "Don't waste my tax dollars."

James D. Schroll, chief of the traffic engineering division for public works, said the county decided to go ahead with the project after a traffic study showed that about 1,500 cars an hour use Benfield, creating a backup of vehicles extending from Jumpers Hole Road to West Benfield Road.

"The county feels an obligation to look at Benfield Road and ask, 'Can we do anything to make it better?,' " he said. "It's a county road, and it's the county's responsibility to address that."

The current 50-foot-wide road has single 13-foot-wide lanes eastbound and westbound. The center lane for left turns is 12 feet wide, and each shoulder is six feet wide.

The project would create two 11-foot-wide eastbound lanes and an 11-foot-wide westbound lane. The center lane would be narrowed to 10 feet, and the shoulders would lose five feet.

The reduction in the width of the shoulders worries Scott Harris. The Kensington resident said his 11-year-old daughter uses the shoulders to walk to Severna Park Middle School. And in less than five years, his son will be walking the same route.

"It's going to speed up traffic, not slow it down," Harris said. "It's going to move traffic three feet closer to my kids walking to school."

Others told Schroll, Faye Scheibe, the customer relations manager for public works, and Betty Dixon, a department spokeswoman, that the restriping would not reduce the amount of time spent waiting in traffic.

"So what if I have to sit in line for eight minutes?" Kensington resident Peter Hefler asked. "Your grandiose plan is going to cut it to six minutes? Who cares?"

Many residents implored the officials to start construction on East-West Boulevard, the two-lane roadway that would connect Veterans Highway and Ritchie Highway.

Work on that thoroughfare is not expected to start until next July and won't be completed until 2000.

Patricia Reid, a member of the Public Works Committee of the Greater Severna Park Council, said every May public works officials have approached committee members with new proposals for Benfield.

And every year the committee has rejected any changes to Benfield Road, she said.

"We would look at the proposals and say that east-west highway needs to be built," Reid said. "Benfield was not meant to be a superhighway. We chose to live in Severna Park because we like the residential neighborhoods and the quiet communities."

Reid reviewed the history of Benfield, noting that when it was a four-lane road in 1984, it was the scene of 118 accidents during a six-month period.

"It just didn't work then," she said, adding that the road was altered to its current three-lane configuration a year later. "This is not a 'not in my back yard' problem. This is a safety issue."

Pub Date: 7/19/96

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