State insists Route 216 should grow to 6 lanes

SHA tells residents 4-lane road would be inadequate in 15 years

October 05, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

After stepping back to consider residents' doubts about the idea, State Highway Administration officials came back to southern Howard County last night to insist that Route 216 between Interstate 95 and U.S. 29 should be widened to six lanes next year.

Most of the 200 people filling an auditorium in the Applied Physics Laboratory did not take kindly to the news. Angry residents hollered questions and a few boos.

State officials had promised to consider a four-lane alternative after the six-lane plan was met with skepticism from residents in June. Last night, they said the decision for six lanes came down to timing.

If Route 216 is expanded to four lanes, it probably will need to be widened again in 15 years to accommodate traffic from several large developments in the works, said Mike Haley, a regional planner with the highway department. He said that highway officials plan road projects with the next 20 years in mind.

"We think it's going to be needed sooner rather than later," he said.

State highway officials agreed with nearby residents that more sound barriers should be built along the road to soften the noise.

But that did little to appease the audience. Many who live near Route 216 see the six-lane project as something for the convenience of people yet to move to Howard County.

Two planned developments, Maple Lawn Farms in Fulton and the Key property in North Laurel, will together add more than 2,200 homes and 3 million square feet of office and commercial space to southern Howard.

With that and other growth, county officials predict that more than 40,000 cars a day will use Route 216 between U.S. 29 and I-95 by 2020, more than twice the roughly 17,000 counted there in 1998.

Larger than needed?

Some residents suggested that six lanes wouldn't be of any use to them - especially not in the near future, when the road would be larger than needed.

"How is this going to benefit the community of Scaggsville?" asked LaDean Barksdale, garnering applause.

But several dozen people in the audience supported the six-lane plan. When Barksdale told highway officials that the road has no traffic problems now, Scaggsville resident T.J. Bryan disagreed.

"Then enjoy your six lanes," Barksdale shot back.

"I will enjoy it, thank you," Bryan answered with a grin. "It takes forever to turn onto 216."

Construction on the 2.6-mile stretch is supposed to begin in the fall of next year and be completed two years later. The route will also be straightened during the $30 million overhaul. It now heads west for about a mile past I-95, zags south on Leishear Road and then continues west on Scaggsville Road.

In a related issue not discussed at the meeting, other residents are pressing the highway administration to abandon plans for a "flyover" exit ramp across Route 216, east of the widening project. The elevated ramp would give eastbound traffic access to land north of the road, including the soon-to-be-developed Key property. Key's developer, a Rouse Co. subsidiary called Howard Research and Development, would pay for the approximately $3 million project.

Close-up view

Some residents - who would have a close-up view of the concrete structure from their homes - believe an expansion of a nearby intersection with All Saints Road would work just as well, without the expense of maintaining an elevated ramp. The county and state would be responsible for maintenance.

"Given that there's a shown workable solution, why would a state agency continue to press on with a project that potentially will cost the taxpayers more money?" asked Andreas Fleckenstein, whose nearby Wyndemere community hired a traffic engineer to come up with the alternative plan.

Haley, with the highway administration, said the state and county prefer the ramp proposal. The residents' suggestion would divert traffic heading to the Key property onto All Saints Road, which couldn't handle the increase, he said.

"This is the best option that we've been able to develop," Haley said.

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