Mountain Road drives motorists to anger It's 'hideous,' 'insane,' but few can agree what to do about it

October 03, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Two words: Mountain Road.

"It's hideous," said Pasadena resident Tim Carroll, of the road that has been congested for two decades.

"I wish I had a monster truck, so that I could just drive over everybody," Pasadena resident Troy Graves said.

"The road is insane," said Jessica Porter, who uses it daily. "I'm about to just drive down the shoulder because it is hell. It really is."

For more than 20 years, residents have yelled, cursed and sent fiery insults to politicians, but traffic has only gotten worse. Lately, some say, if cars were moving any slower in the afternoon, they would be going backward.

Plans to expand part of Mountain Road to five lanes have been on and off the county's budget, forgotten and, most recently, sitting in a partial-funding limbo.

State delegates are fighting with County Council members over whether to widen the road or build a bypass -- and the county is fighting with the state over whether either project is worth doing.

Residents are divided. Some want Mountain Road widened; some, fearing expansion will take a chunk from their front yards, want a bypass; and others, fearing that both options will invite more developers, don't want anything done.

'Detrimental' dueling

"All of these dueling solutions are detrimental," said Carolyn Roeding, president of the Greater Pasadena Council, where Mountain Road has dominated conversation for more than a decade.

"Frankly, all this is going to ensure is that again nothing will be done.

"Someone has got to have the courage enough to make a decision and face the consequences, because this is a safety issue," she said.

For years, drivers on Mountain Road -- the main artery on the peninsula -- have blamed new businesses, a lack of left-hand-turn lanes, people taking short cuts through neighborhoods and, as of last week, school buses.

"They're big and yellow, and they're not there all year around, so people perceive this as the problem," Roeding said. "The problem is not really the buses, but the road. The cup is full, and it is overflowing, and even the least bit of pressure is having an impact."

Increased population

With an average of 28,700 people driving the road daily last year -- compared with 17,800 in 1992 -- most people suspect increased population is the real culprit.

"Inextricably intertwined in this is the growth issue," said Del. John R. Leopold, who supports widening the road. "People are saying, 'Why should we trust widening, because it's an invitation for more growth?' "

Dels. Victoria L. Schade, a Republican; Joan Cadden, a Democrat; Leopold, a Republican; and Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Democrat, all representing the 31st District, bypassed county government -- which allocates state highway money in Anne Arundel -- and asked Gov. Parris N. Glendening last month to include $1.5 million in his 1999 budget for the road. They appealed to County Executive John G. Gary, but have yet to receive his support.

The county has set priorities for its road projects for the next several years.

According to Mike Haley, regional planner for Howard and Anne Arundel counties with the State Highway Administration, Mountain Road is third on the list of four planned projects.

Order of priority

First is Route 2 in Edgewater; second is a connector ramp on Jennifer Road in Parole; and fourth is the completion of Route 32 east of Route 198.

Third isn't bad, Haley said, considering most projects don't make the list at all. Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Baltimore counties receive the most state money for roads.

Once a project makes the list, it goes through four stages: project planning, design, right-of-way acquisition and construction.

The Mountain Road project, having received $215,000 in state funds last year, is in the design phase for widening -- but officials say that designation could change. Buying land and construction will take at least the $1.5 million the representatives have asked for, if it stays on the list, Haley said.

"Being in stage two is definitely a good sign for a project," he said.

Local delegates are predicting widening will begin by 2001, while some council members are saying 2010.

After 20 years, Roeding says she doesn't believe any of them.

"I'll believe it when the asphalt hits the ground," she said, "and by then I'll probably be long gone."

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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