Highway linkage proposal revived But Howard officials oppose tying Route 32 to Montgomery Co.

March 18, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's recent decision to pull state support from the Intercounty Connector -- a long-debated proposed east-west highway designed to ease suburban Washington traffic -- has rekindled debate over building a highway connecting Howard and Montgomery counties.

Though the idea appeared dead shortly after state Sen. Arthur Dorman suggested it in December, the Prince George's Democrat is now trying to revive widening the study area for the connecter to include connecting Route 32 near Clarksville to Interstate 270 near Rockville with a 13-mile highway.

And state transportation officials -- who had initially rejected the idea -- now say anything is possible because the governor has asked transportation officials to identify trouble spots in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and proposed forming a committee of transportation and land-use experts to suggest recommendations for relieving congestion in both counties.

"Everything's on the table for them to look at," said Chuck Brown, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, who would not rule out the Route 32 idea. "Everything has been overshadowed by the ICC, and this group is going to take a step back from all that and look at all of the ranges of alternatives."

But Howard County officials say they object to any proposal that would bring more traffic onto their roads and into their neighborhoods.

"It's a terrible idea," said State Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Howard County Republican. "Montgomery County should solve its traffic problems within its own borders."

Ecker is opposed

County Executive Charles I. Ecker also opposed the proposal: "I think that's wrong. I think they need to improve east-west flow in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, but I don't think they can meet that need through Howard County."

The 17.5-mile Intercounty Connector was first talked about in 1953. The $1.1 billion proposal was designed to provide easy access between Interstate 270 and U.S. 1 in Laurel and include an interchange on Interstate 95.

But opponents have successfully fought the concept, arguing that the thoroughfare would affect existing communities and harm the environment.

As an alternative, Dorman suggested late last year looking into ,, the possibility of running Route 32 through parts of the Howard County communities of Clarksville and Highland before crossing the Patuxent River into Montgomery County.

But David L. Winstead, state transportation secretary, rejected that idea a month later, contending that Route 32 would not fulfill the goals outlined by the connector master plan.

Last week, Glendening withdrew his support for the original ICC proposal and suggested looking at new approaches.

Committee deadlocked

Dorman, vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee which last week deadlocked in a 5-5 vote on his bill -- tabling the measure -- contended that a number of factors make Route 32 a viable option.

"No. 1, the road is there now," Dorman said. "The state has the right of way for additional lanes, but it doesn't displace any homes or businesses and it's east-west. It does primarily what the ICC was intended to do."

Don Spence, president of the Eastern Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, also noted that Route 32 is already built.

"From a cost efficiency standpoint, it makes sense," he said.

Pub Date: 3/18/98

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