Md. aid expected on road projects Officials say word on 3 intersections is to come Monday

'This is a victory'

Matching money has been long sought for $51 million work

January 14, 1998|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Craig Timberg and Edward Lee contributed to this article.

Long-awaited improvements to three Howard County intersections are expected to get the green light Monday when Gov. Parris N. Glendening announces that the state will match county funds to pay for the $51 million work.

According to Howard County officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, the state has agreed to pay for almost half the cost of new interchanges at Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway in east Columbia, U.S. 29 and Route 216, and U.S. 29 and Johns Hopkins Road in Scaggsville. Construction will take at least three years.

Some officials hinted that there might be funds to redesign Route 216 between U.S. 29 and Interstate 95.

"At long last, we've gotten what we were promised years ago," said Ceilia Januszkiewiez, a Columbia Council member from Long Reach who has pushed for improvements at the Snowden River Parkway intersection.

"They told us and they told us it would come. It's too bad it couldn't come sooner. The houses are already there. The commercial development is there," she said. "This is a victory for the community."

Officials in the governor's press office refused to confirm the amount that the state plans to pay for the intersections, but a spokesman said the governor will be announcing increased funds for county roads.

"He is expected to announce that he is adding funds" to the Department of Transportation budget, said Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for the governor. "Dollars that will help to fund three projects in Howard County that [county] officials say are very much needed" will be included.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who refused to confirm Glendening's announcement, said: "I understand he's going to have a press conference Monday. I've been talking to him about money for the interchanges in the county. We're hoping that it will come through."

Any state money would be included in the Department of Transportation budget, which is subject to legislative approval.

Getting the state to pay half of the costs of these projects is what Ecker has been seeking in meetings with state officials since November.

It would cost about $12 million for an overpass at Snowden River Parkway and Route 175, $11.7 million for improvements at the Route 216 and U.S. 29 interchange, and $27 million to overhaul the intersection at U.S. 29 and Johns Hopkins Road.

State funds for the intersections fulfill a long-awaited promise to Howard officials and residents who have complained of congestion at the intersections, where development has increased traffic.

In October, Ecker said the county would pay half the cost of improving the three interchanges, but he has been awaiting the state's share of the money.

Columbia residents have been particularly upset about the intersection of Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway. The heavily traveled intersection just west of Interstate 95 is amid burgeoning commercial growth.

It is controlled by traffic lights, which often results in long delays for motorists at rush hour.

Money to implement a task force's recommendation for an overpass there has been in and out of county budgets as officials toyed with a less expensive solution and theorized that the opening of Route 100 to the north would relieve congestion.

"This puts the [Route 175 and Snowden River] project back on track so we can handle the growth," state Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Clarksville Republican, said of the governor's plans. "It is important that when promises are made, government keeps promises."

Del. Frank Turner, a Democrat of east Columbia, also applauded the news. "Since we had already gotten a commitment from the county, we didn't want to give them any excuse for not doing [these projects,]" he said.

Democratic County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, who represents east Columbia, said the state's pledge for an estimated $25 million shows cooperation.

"I think it's great that the governor has been supportive of the county's needed interchanges," Gray said. "They are essential in Howard County."

In the southern portion of the county, activists say even more road improvements will be needed to keep up with increased growth. Some fear that improvements will invite more development.

Three proposed communities of homes and commercial offices may be built within five miles of U.S. 29 and Route 216. That could bring more than 3,600 homes into the Scaggsville area.

"I think it's good that we're finally going to get the upgrade we need at 29 and Route 216 and at 29 and Hopkins, but we're worried that it will allow more development," said Greg Brown, who is president of the Cherrytree Farm Neighborhood Association. "Without a redesigned 216, we'll get all kinds of traffic now on a country road that can't handle it."

The new interchange should relieve some of the traffic that has accompanied the increased growth in the Fulton area near Route 216, some say.

"There's not much you can do to stop the projects," Turner said. "The bottom line is, it's coming, and to me, it's better to have the roads if you know you can't stop the growth than to not have them."

Ecker said he has talked with Glendening about a revamping of Route 216 between U.S. 29 and I-95. As for the county's chances of getting state money for that project, Ecker said, "I'm an optimist.

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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