ALLEVIATING congestion on Mountain Road in Pasadena may be a little closer at hand. Last week, officials from the state and Anne Arundel County agreed to create a reversible middle lane to move traffic during weekday rush hours.
Residents and politicians described this agreement as a breakthrough, practically the local equivalent of a peace settlement in Northern Ireland. It's been nearly 20 years since a magazine described Mountain Road as "the longest dead-end street in America."
While a modest temporary solution, a clearly marked reversible lane would be a major step to ease congestion and advance the debate on a more permanent solution.
Two decades of home-building without regard to Mountain Road's capacity have created intolerable rush-hour congestion east of Route 100. The two-lane road can barely accommodate the estimated 30,000 daily trips. From 1984 to 1989 and again in 1996, the county imposed a moratorium on constructing residential subdivisions for more than a mile on either side of Mountain Road, from Woods Road to Gibson Island. The County Council lifted the most recent freeze a year ago.
The reversible lane should not be justification for approving scores of new homes. Before future subdivisions are approved, the county must decide among three possibilities: It can widen Mountain Road, build a bypass, or, the least acceptable option, simply live indefinitely with the reversible lane.
Even if construction on the peninsula is limited, the historic pattern has been for traffic to increase over time. Relying on a reversible lane means that congestion over time will inevitably worsen.
Ultimately, the county must choose between adding lanes to Mountain Road or building a bypass. The state, which operates Mountain Road, favors widening it to four lanes. The county favors a 2.5-mile bypass. It must not take another 20 years to select between these options.
Pub Date: 4/22/98