Road becomes path to conflict Planned extension of East-West Blvd. pits two communities

'Us against them'

Severna Park project causes Pasadena to tremble over traffic

May 07, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Completion of the last section of a partly built connector linking Veterans Highway to Route 2 is pitting two of the county's largest and most organized communities against each other.

Severna Park has fought for 30 years for funding to complete East-West Boulevard, which residents see as the only solution to congestion along Benfield Boulevard.

But the third and final part of that road, long planned but not budgeted for by the county, would unload heaps of cars into one of Pasadena's biggest traffic headaches: Catherine Avenue.

Pasadena residents have been waging their own struggle since the late 1980s to turn part of that avenue into a one-way street. Several children have been hit by cars on Catherine, which is overwhelmed by motorists trying to reach notoriously crowded Mountain Road and Route 100.

Pasadena residents, led by their County Council member, Thomas W. Redmond Sr., will face off against Severna Park residents, led by their council member, Diane R. Evans, at Monday's special budget hearing. While Severna Park presses for the road work, the Pasadena contingents will ask that it be put off for a year while another route is researched.

The two sides will base their arguments on evidence that sounds very similar: Roads in their community cannot handle any more traffic.

"It's a very 'us against them' mentality," said Pasadena resident Marcia Mia, who opposes the road. "That's what we found when we brought the issue to the Severna Park Council. It's very disheartening that they didn't want to look at the problems they're creating for our part of town. They think East-West Boulevard is the big solution, and it's just not."

Most aggravating for Severna Park residents is that having come so far in achieving their long-awaited road, they must endure what some call a "sudden uprising" from Pasadena that threatens to halt the project.

"The Pasadena Council does a great job for its area, but they've got to realize most of the intersections along Ritchie Highway are failed intersections," said Larry Masterson, president of the Greater Severna Park Council. He meant that the intersections with Route 2 cannot move all the waiting traffic through in one cycle of red-to-green lights.

"Yes, there are going to be increases in traffic," he said, "but the cost involved in resolving all these issues -- Mountain Road, Ritchie Highway, Catherine Avenue -- means [that] nothing will happen for another 20 years. It's hard enough getting something into the budget, and to risk taking it out now, [and] having to compete again with all the other projects means we'll end up with a $10 million cul-de-sac." The East-West Boulevard currently dead-ends at Governor Stone Parkway.

Pasadena residents say they weren't aware of the impact on their area until a county report from last year surfaced recently showing that the Route 2 intersection and several other Pasadena intersections will fail with the additional traffic. The report, prepared for the Department of Public Works by Rummel, Klepper and Kahl, also shows the road will bring additional traffic to Catherine Avenue.

Some Pasadena advocates point to several acres of wetlands that they say could be destroyed by the road.

"Why didn't [the Severna Park Council] tell us ahead of time?" asked Greater Pasadena Council President Carolyn Roeding. "I went to their meeting three years ago, and they told me this was not going to impact Pasadena. We have always been told this was a Severna Park issue.

"Everything is just dumped here. Dump this in Pasadena, dump that. Well, we just can't hold anymore. I swear, sometimes you have to laugh about it, because otherwise you'll start crying."

The $12.3 million road, which is nearly three miles long, has been in the works since 1968. The first section, between Veterans Highway and Governor Stone Parkway, was built half by a local developer in the mid-1980s and half by the county in 1994. Work on the second part, between Governor Stone Parkway and Jumpers Hole Road, began Monday.

The last part, from Jumpers Hole to Ritchie Highway at a point near Mission Street, was expected to begin in the fall with $3 million from the 1999 budget.

Evans has vowed to make sure her district gets its road, noting that Redmond voted twice in favor of the project three years ago.

"We were almost at a point where this was finished. and to have this come up at the last minute like this is a big mistake," she warned. "It's certainly going to cause problems."

Redmond, meanwhile, is telling area community meetings he will find a way to stop it. County Executive John G. Gary is still behind the project, his spokesman, Lisa Ritter, said yesterday. The new bickering has left some wondering if anybody's road problems will ever be resolved.

"No one should be pitting community against community," Roeding said, "but then, it's pretty typical to do that, because that way nothing will get done."

Pub Date: 5/07/98

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