Gary drops plan for 2 lanes on Benfield Road Letter-writing sways executive against proposal

August 07, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The people spoke and County Executive John G. Gary listened.

The first-term Republican, citing substantial opposition from Severna Park residents, dumped a three-month county plan to convert a section of eastbound Benfield Road to two lanes.

"Clearly, this room is full of people who say they don't want it," said Gary, as he peered into an audience of about 250 who packed the Severna Park United Methodist Church on Benfield Road last night. "That's fine with me. We will resurface the road and put the striping where it is today."

His decision drew thunderous applause from residents.

"I think it's great," said Brian Myers, who was worried that he would not be able to make a left turn on the section of Benfield in his Kensington neighborhood in the plan had been completed. "He said what the people wanted to hear."

The plan that Gary dumped was expected to cost several thousand dollars and included adding the second lane between Windward Drive and Knollwood Drive by this October.

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 6 feet wide.

The project would have created two 11-foot-wide eastbound lanes and an 11-foot-wide westbound lane. The center lane would have been narrowed to 10 feet, and the shoulders would have lost five feet.

But Gary said he changed his mind after opponents of the plan sent him many letters, some of which were "insulting" and some "genuinely concerned."

"Clearly, you've indicated that you don't want this done," he said. "I was merely looking at a proposal and testing it to see if it was the right proposal.

"So put your mind at rest," he continued, "you've spoken, we've heard you and this is what we're going to do."

Diane L. Evans, who chairs the County Council and represents Severna Park, praised Gary's reversal.

"I'm absolutely delighted," said Evans, who opposed the two-lane plan. "He made a wise decision."

Debbie Chamberlain, a Kensington resident who organized the letter-writing campaign, credited the correspondence with making the difference.

"I appreciate him listening to all of us," she said. "I guess this is what democracy is all about."

But Gary contended that the congestion would continue to get worse with the addition of a McDonald's restaurant and other commercial venues near the intersection of Benfield and Jumpers Hole roads.

"The problem is not going to get better, it's going to get worse," he warned. "But it's your community, it's your road and you have to deal with it."

Gary said he would continue to push the completion of East-West Boulevard -- a promise that concerned Larry Elletson, president of the Shipley's Choice Homeowners Association.

"The problem that we have with East-West highway is that it's not going to alleviate a lot of the traffic from Benfield," Elletson said, noting that the boulevard would not be finished until 2000. "We don't think it's going to make as much an impact on Severna Park as most people would like to think."

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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