State to shift center lane at rush hours

Mountain Road plan intended to ease delays at peak times

System to begin Monday

Lights to alert drivers

some residents fear increase in growth

July 08, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

The state announced yesterday a new attempt to ease the maddening, three-mile traffic backups that have plagued drivers on Mountain Road in Pasadena for years. The center lane on a stretch of the three-lane road will become a reversible lane during rush hours.

During the morning, a new signal light will open the center lane on the 1 3/4-mile stretch between Route 100 and South Carolina Avenue to westbound traffic only. During evening, the lane will be used by eastbound traffic only. At other times, it will continue to be a two-way turn lane.

The $1.5 million reversible-lane system, similar to one on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, will go into effect Monday on the road, the only direct link between Ritchie Highway and the Fort Smallwood peninsula.

Some residents in neighborhoods along the crowded corridor say the system is the only hope for easing congestion and calming the tempers of drivers often stuck for as long as 40 minutes.

Other residents, according to David C. Williams, former president of the Greater Pasadena Council, do not want any road improvements, fearing that making the area more accessible will encourage more development.

"So, instead of this being a win-win situation, it's a lose-lose situation," Williams said. "We can't get agreement in the community about this, but at least now our elected leaders are trying to improve the situation."

The new traffic patterns will start 6: 30 a.m. Monday, state highway officials said. Between 6: 30 a.m. and 9 a.m., westbound drivers will see a traffic light with one red X and two green arrows, which will allow two lanes of westbound traffic instead of one.

After 9 a.m., two curved white arrows will signal drivers that traffic patterns have returned to normal.

Between 3: 30 p.m. and 7 p.m., the lane patterns will reverse, with westbound commuters seeing two red X's and one green arrow, enabling eastbound motorists to move along faster in the two lanes designated by green arrows.

Increased development along Mountain Road during the past 20 or so years has caused an explosion in traffic. Drivers often have to wait as long as six minutes for the light to change at Lake Shore Road. State highway officials estimate that 28,000 vehicles pass through the South Carolina Avenue-Route 100 stretch daily.

As more connecting roads have been added, politicians and community activists have bickered over what to do about the mounting traffic and frustration. Bypasses along several sections of Mountain Road have been proposed, discussed and ultimately shot down by residents who did not want to do anything that might encourage more developers to build homes.

The last suggestion, made about two years ago by then-County Executive John G. Gary, was to build a bypass between South Carolina Avenue and Magothy Bridge Road. Residents objected and the idea was canned.

"The community didn't want it," said Del. John R. Leopold of Pasadena. "It would mean the loss of houses, and the great concern was that it would bring even more traffic into the area."

Many residents, Leopold said, do not trust county government to protect them from overdevelopment.

"The public has not felt confident of the county to control growth," Leopold said. "So it is our hope that this reversible-lane option will be an effective way to move the traffic through the area."

"We are keeping our fingers crossed that this works," said Williams.

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