State reverses lane for traffic

Directions switched on Pasadena highway

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

In a move to end 3-mile traffic jams along one of Anne Arundel's peninsulas -- among the worst backups in the Baltimore suburbs -- the state yesterday announced a reversible-lane system that borrows from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

The $1.5 million system, similar to one used on the bridge, targets a three-lane stretch of Pasadena's Mountain Road, the only direct link from Ritchie Highway to the Fort Smallwood peninsula and Gibson Island.

Using special traffic signals, nearly two miles of the center lane -- now used for turns -- will be transformed into a westbound lane during the morning rush hour and an eastbound lane in the evening.

Some residents along the crowded corridor say the system, scheduled to start Monday, is the only hope for easing congestion and calming the tempers of drivers often stuck for as long as 40 minutes.

But others fear that such road improvements will spark more development.

"So instead of this being a win-win situation, it's a lose-lose situation," said David C. Williams, former president of the Greater Pasadena Council. "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 at 6: 30 a.m. Monday on the 1 3/4-mile stretch between Route 100 and South Carolina Avenue, state highway officials said. From 6: 30 a.m. to 9 a.m., westbound drivers will see a traffic light with one red X and two green arrows, allowing 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.

From 3: 30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the lane patterns will reverse, with westbound commuters seeing two red X's and one green arrow. That will enable eastbound motorists to move along faster using two lanes.

Increased development along Mountain Road has caused an explosion in traffic.

An estimated 28,000 vehicles pass through the South Carolina Avenue-Route 100 stretch daily, state highway officials say. Drivers often wait as long as six minutes for the light to change at Lake Shore Road.

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 rejected by residents who objected to anything that might encourage developers to build more homes.

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

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

Williams said: "We are keeping our fingers crossed that this works. Making left turns might be difficult with this, but we have to try something. It's a big mess out here."

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