East should meet West

Anne Arundel: Owens correctly decided to finish boulevard rather than leave expensive `cul-de-sac.'

January 06, 2000

THE JOURNEY from Ritchie Highway to Veterans Highway can be nerve-wracking. Heading west from Jumpers Hole Road, motorists soon reach a traffic circle under construction. An arrow points toward East-West Boulevard, but there's no boulevard there yet. Instead, drivers must negotiate a long detour.

Anne Arundel County has paid for and built most of the $14-million road known as East-West Boulevard. It was designed in 1968 to link eastern and western parts of central Anne Arundel. Less than a mile of the three-mile route remains undone.

For a long time, it appeared the road might never be finished, leaving in place a "$10 million cul-de-sac," supporters of the project complained. Communities along the route didn't want it completed. County Executive Janet S. Owens listened to neighbors' concerns, and promised to consider them as she decided whether to complete the link.

Ms. Owens demonstrated leadership by meeting with residents; constituents need to know that their elected representatives will listen before they make decisions. She heard from residents of Lake Waterford, Brittingham and Pasadena who feared that the extension would fuel development and worsen quality of life.

Ms. Owens showed leadership again weeks later by deciding to complete the road. She could have pandered to an audience that included some of her political supporters, among them project opponent Del. Joan Cadden. But Ms. Owens did the right thing.

The county has invested too heavily in this worthwhile project to leave it in perpetual limbo. Drivers seeking a way between Ritchie and Veterans highways now tie up Benfield Boulevard.Ms. Owens has two options: complete the badly needed artery or waste the $10 million taxpayers already have spent on it.

It was an easy call.

The county executive and other officials must address residents' concerns that the road will aggravate sprawl. Tighter zoning laws can deter unwanted growth. But that issue should not block the completion of a road that is more necessary now than when first planned three decades ago.

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