County connector can cut congestion, protect environment
I am writing to commend The Sun for its May 10 editorial ("Tying Montgomery Co. to the Baltimore region") on the need for an inter-county roadway that would link Montgomery County and Baltimore.
An inter-county highway is vital to meeting our transportation needs. While we must continue to expand our mass transportation network, we must also add this highway link between our major centers of economic activity.
As the debate continues over this highway, a few key points should be kept in mind.
We do not have to forgo environmental protections to build this road. Where there are areas of particular environmental concern, such as sensitive wetlands, the road can be designed and built to have minimal impact.
The State Highway Administration has designed this roadway creatively. From wooded buffers and median dividers to ramp layout, to signage and lighting, we should, and can, build a parkway that is a functional and aesthetic model.
This roadway will improve the quality of life for thousands of Marylanders daily.
The greatest increase in vehicle miles traveled is during noncommuting times when families are shopping, shuttling children to activities and running other errands. Many family-time hours are lost -- and much air pollution is created -- while cars idle in traffic jams.
A by-pass highway would alleviate the growing congestion jamming local roads throughout Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
More than 30 years of development, and another 10 to 15 now in the pipeline, have been approved with the understanding that this roadway will be built.
From a local, state and regional perspective, an environmental perspective, a competitive perspective and a quality of life perspective, the question we should be asking is not whether we should build this road, but when.
O. James Lighthizer Annapolis
The writer is former secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation and the current chairman of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce's Transportation Committee.
Smart growth really is smart
Steven Hayward's May 10 Opinion Commentary ("Smart Growth policy is chock-full of dumb ideas") is itself chock-full of falsehoods.
Mr. Hayward asserts that Smart Growth means "much higher" population densities. But the qualifying density under Maryland's Smart Growth law equals a lot size of 12,445 square feet, a bit larger than a typical suburban quarter-acre lot.
Mr. Hayward says any housing survey proves that what people want is a large lot in a low-density development. The National Association of Home Builders say their surveys consistently show that what people really want is a good housing value in a good neighborhood.
Mr. Hayward believes we're stuck with dumb transportation along with dumb growth. He thinks higher densities cause congestion and subscribes to the old chestnut, "you can't force people out of their cars."
Actually, sprawl forces people into cars for lack of alternatives.
According to a regional study conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments in 1994, focusing growth inside the Washington beltway produces 22 percent less congestion than current land use plans.
Maryland has already chosen the path of smart growth and has the opportunity to choose smart transportation over more highways in next year's legislative debate on transportation funding.
George J. Maurer Annapolis
The writer is senior planner for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
AIDSWALK deserved more media attention
I was saddened to see so little media coverage last weekend for the Health Education Resource Organization's (HERO) Maryland AIDSWALK`99. As a volunteer for HERO and other AIDS-service organizations, I find it astonishing that there wasn't more said about a disease that infects nearly 10,000 Marylanders.
Ironically, HERO moved the walk to the Inner Harbor area for so it would have greater visibility, but The Sun's only coverage was one photo in its May 23 Maryland section of the walkers viewed from a great distance.
The media had a wonderful opportunity to educate the community about AIDS awareness. Unfortunately, they dropped the ball.
If we keep this disease at a distance, and deny it a face, more Marylanders will succumb to the epidemic.
Gina Mast Baltimore
How can so many senators still oppose gun controls?
I do not understand why the U.S. Senate's vote last week on the crime bill ("Senate passes crime bill," May 21) was so close that Vice President Al Gore had to cast the tie-breaking vote.
Why do many senators, mostly Republicans, object to a waiting period for guns purchased at gun shows and child-safety locks on all guns?
Aspirin, mouthwash, most medications and poisonous cleaning fluids have tight caps that are difficult to open so children can't easily get access to them.
Surely gun owners value human life more than a little inconvenience.