Route 100 shortcut links area suburbs Opening expected to save time, traffic

November 23, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Drivers, start your engines.

Today's opening of a five-mile section of Route 100 between Interstate 95 and U.S. 29 completes a long-awaited highway link in Baltimore's fast-growing suburbs -- in effect, an outer beltway providing a quick route between northeastern Howard County and Anne Arundel's Pasadena peninsula.

Thousands of commuters will be able to avoid congestion on the Beltway and smaller county roads, saving as much as 20 minutes on an east-west trip. And Route 100 should play a significant role in stimulating commercial development, encouraging use of other modes of transportation, including rail, and finishing a network of highways between Baltimore and Washington.

"This opening completes the overall corridor," says state Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead. "It's a major economic link."

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at the interchange of I-95 and Route 100.

David Rohrbaught can't wait.

"I know from talking to my neighbors that it will save us five to 10 minutes from going down Montgomery Road or [Route] 103," says Rohrbaught, president of Ellicott City's Rockburn Township Homeowners Association. "We're looking forward to it."

Conceived during the early 1960s, the completion of the 21 1/2 -mile Route 100 comes six months ahead of schedule and two years after the opening of the section linking Interstate 97 in Anne Arundel County with the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Interstate 95 in Howard. It coincides with the extension of Snowden River Parkway from Tamar Drive to Route 100.

All told, the Route 100 project cost $289 million -- including the 270,000 tons of asphalt and 110 workers needed to build the new Howard County portion.

Mark Flack, an assistant district engineer for construction with the State Highway Administration, is relieved that it's completed.

"All of my neighbors have been asking me, 'When is it going to open?' " says Flack, who lives in nearby Ellicott City. "I can finally say, 'This month.' "

Motorists have grown weary of congested highways such as routes 175 and 32 in Howard County.

According to 1997 state figures, about 58,000 motorists traveled Route 175 east of Snowden River Parkway daily, while more than 75,000 used Route 32 to get to Interstate 95. By 2020, those numbers are projected to grow to 70,000 and 150,000, respectively, despite Route 100.

For a long time, motorists going west had two options to get to Ellicott City: Fight traffic on the Baltimore Beltway to take U.S. 40 or endure congestion on Route 175 before getting on U.S. 29. Route 100 will provide an uninterrupted flow to U.S. 29 and Ellicott City for 86,500 motorists daily by 2020, according to projections.

The route won't just benefit the automobile, however. Winstead says it will give commuters from Sykesville, Ellicott City and Catonsville a chance to trade backups on highways such as U.S. 29 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for a ride on the Dorsey MARC commuter train near the Howard-Anne Arundel border.

"With the growing congestion on the parkway and 95, I'm hoping that the opening will drive more ridership on the transit system," Winstead says. "It's part of our plan to facilitate mobility along all modes of transportation."

Winstead says Route 100 also will attract more business to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which last year unveiled a $139 million international terminal and a 4,600-space parking garage.

The airport is competing with Washington-Dulles International Airport, Winstead says. "Now it will be easier for the airport to draw more freight and cargo business."

The thoroughfare has already spurred commercial development in the corridor. Manekin Corp. has secured several tenants for a business park on U.S. 1 near Route 100, Mills Corp. has proposed building an outlet mall near the airport, and several warehousing facilities have opened along Route 100 in Anne Arundel.

Neil M. Shpritz, executive director of BWI Business Partnership Inc., says he thinks the highway will lure new companies.

"It opens up brand new development opportunities," Shpritz says. "There's a lot of infrastructure and frontage that can be attractive to an industrial complex or a distribution center or an office."

The anticipated completion of Route 100 has helped homeowners along Montgomery Road in Howard County delay a county project to widen the two-lane, winding road, which has served as a shortcut for many drivers on U.S. 1 and Route 103.

"We've always said, 'Let's wait until Route 100 opens before we do anything,' " said resident Brian Wilson. "This is not supposed to be a highway."

But Carl Balser, chief of transportation planning for Howard County, says Route 100 will not solve all of the area's transportation problems.

"Traffic that gets on and gets off [Route] 100 has to go somewhere," says Balser, citing a projection of 121,400 cars a day by 2010 on U.S. 29 between Route 100 and Interstate 70. "We can't look at 100 in isolation."

Highway officials are equally cautious, but they are eagerly anticipating the opening.

"It's not the last piece of the puzzle," says highway administration spokeswoman Valerie Burnette Edgar, "but it's definitely a nice addition."

Pub Date: 11/23/98

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