After 20 years, Obrecht Road proposal still languishes No money for extension seen for two more years

March 07, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

For 20 years, a proposal to extend Obrecht Road to Route 32 near Sykesville has been on the county master plan. Today, the county is no closer to building the 1.2-mile segment than it was in 1977.

Commuters face long lines at Springfield Avenue, where traffic from Obrecht ultimately enters Route 32. Poor sight distance has caused many accidents and prompted the state to approve a temporary signal. Installation of the signal could be as early as next month.

Frustrated with the stalemate, a Sykesville resident asked for a meeting with county and state officials.

"I am still waiting for even a shoulder," Vince DiPietro of Clark Drive said yesterday. "We can't do nothing. Something is better than nothing, even if it is not a perfect solution."

The County Commissioners told DiPietro they would have no money for Obrecht Road for at least two years.

Plans call for looping Obrecht around the north end of Fairhaven Retirement Community, where it would access the state highway. Fairhaven's refusal to grant the easements necessary to build the loop forced the county to divert about $800,000 budgeted for the extension last year to other road projects.

"We had the money and other projects just as important, so we used the funding," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

Obrecht Road remains a project in the county's capital improvement program, but probably no earlier than 2000.

"If it is funded in fiscal 2000, I say we go ahead whether Fairhaven likes it or not," said Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown. "If the planning commission is committed to keeping Obrecht Road in that year's funding, I will keep it as a priority."

Fairhaven has pushed for extending Third Avenue -- at the community's main entrance -- to Route 32, promising the county easements for Obrecht once Third Avenue is under construction.

But the county will not build a road through a municipality, and the town has no money to extend Third Avenue, estimated to cost about $1 million. DiPietro has called and written to Fairhaven and invited its officials to the meeting yesterday. All his messages have gone unanswered.

"No company, church or individual should be allowed to hold this county hostage to their bidding," said DiPietro.

The State Highway Administration has offered $400,000 to improve one intersection along Route 32, and state officials have said they prefer the Obrecht Road option.

"Third Avenue is the worst option of all, with the poorest line of sight," said Steve McHenry, assistant division chief for the Baltimore region of the State Highway Administration.

The state does not want to see two more intersections in such close proximity along the highway, which eventually could be four lanes into Howard County.

Building Third Avenue could be an exercise in futility. Steve Horn, bureau chief for the county Department of Planning, said an extended Third Avenue might postpone the need for Obrecht but would not eliminate it.

If built, Obrecht probably would handle about 7,800 vehicles a day, considering the residential development slated for the area, McHenry said.

Traffic counts show a need for the improvements. At Springfield and Route 32, estimates reached 5,250 daily trips last year.

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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