Neighbors divided over rerouting traffic Plan to relieve congestion in Worthington subject of public meeting tonight

November 06, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A task force recommendation for reducing congestion in an Ellicott City community is pitting neighborhood against neighborhood because no residents want the traffic that is clogging Worthington funneled down their streets.

"We don't want it," Herbert Coard, who has lived in a rancher on Hale Haven Drive for 14 years, said of the proposal that would link Doncaster and Hale Haven drives to divert traffic from congested Worthington Way.

"This street is the children's playground since they have no other place to play. If you put that road through here, it will be a speedway," he said.

Added Jack Speicher, who has lived on Hale Haven for nine years: "This doesn't make sense to me. We don't need it."

The recommendation, which will be announced at a public meeting at 6: 30 p.m. today at Worthington Elementary School, split the nine-member Worthington Vicinity Task Force 5-4 along neighborhood lines.

The five who live in Worthington, where traffic would be reduced, supported it. The four who live on or near Hale Haven, which would get more traffic, opposed it.

The task force has spent six months studying the road network bounded by New Cut, Bonnie Branch and Montgomery roads and College Avenue.

Traffic has been a concern since the greater Worthington community -- which includes, among others, the neighborhoods of Autumn View, Brookfield Farms and Garrian Orchards -- was begun about 35 years ago.

The first phase of development included about 250 houses built by 1977. In the past five years, about 500 houses have been built, and several hundred more are planned.

Worthington Way, which runs through the original Worthington subdivision, is the only way to get in and out of several of the newer communities built north of the original development.

Much of the traffic comes to a halt at the busy intersection with Montgomery Road, clogging Worthington Way.

Worthington Elementary School, built in 1976, adds school bus traffic.

Carl Adamski, who has lived on Worthington Way since 1958, said he cannot drive to meet friends for morning coffee.

"I can't even get out of my own driveway," Adamski said. "I just sit there and hope and pray."

Eileen Bernard, a seven-year Worthington resident, said she doesn't allow her two daughters to walk to a friend's house without supervision.

"I have to watch them every second," Bernard said. "All we need is one ball to go out in the middle of the street, and that's it."

The task force, formed in May, met twice a month to grapple with the problem.

It agreed, 8-1, to propose a new road from New Cut Road through a county-owned landfill and property owned by the Taylor family to Chews Vineyard.

County engineers estimated that the new road would reduce traffic on Worthington Way by almost 28 percent. Some task force members expressed concern about inviting more traffic on New Cut, a winding road through forest that is a county-designated scenic road.

It was the plan for building a connection between Doncaster and Hale Haven drives that divided the commission and is expected to trigger fireworks at tonight's meeting.

Engineers say the proposed road would divert as much as 66 percent of the traffic from Worthington Way. But that did not please the commission members who live in areas that would get much of that traffic.

Speicher, the Hale Haven resident and one of the task force members, accused several of his colleagues of grandstanding.

"You can look at where everyone lived and tell where [the link road] was going to go," Speicher said. "People started getting greedy and said, 'Hey, if we can get rid of 30 percent, why not 66 percent?' "

David Blough, who has lived in Brookfield Farms for four years, said he is concerned about the projected cost of the road construction, which is about $715,000.

"I don't think we should spend county funds on buying Cadillacs," Blough said. "I think we should be spending the money on something else."

But Worthington resident Dan Murray noted that for two decades, the county has planned to build another access road for Worthington through Hale Haven.

"The argument that it shouldn't be there doesn't hold water," said Murray, who has lived on Worthington Way for three years. "The county has a responsibility to serve the good of as many people as it can. To tell the people of Hale Haven that we're not going to build a road through there just because you don't like it doesn't serve the greatest number of people."

Added Jean Cline, a task force member from Worthington: "All you have to do is look around Howard County and see that everyone has to deal with something in their lives that they didn't bargain for. Nobody's getting off easy on this."

The controversy has dismayed task force members, many of whom thought that, as neighbors, they would be able to decide what's best for the community with little or no difficulty.

"I'm disappointed that we couldn't come to a consensus," said Clark Schoeffield, a task force member who has lived in Worthington for 30 years. "I feel that we did not fully achieve our objectives."

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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