Road to somewhere PROTESTING, cynical and discouraged...


October 13, 2001

Road to somewhere

PROTESTING, cynical and discouraged citizens take heart: Sometimes your ideas fall on hearing ears.

Example? How to plan for reconstruction of Route 216 in southern Howard County, extending between Route 29 and Laurel. The spur boasts no more than 2.6 miles from end to end, but it has grown in importance as two new mixed-use developments get under way.

The state planned to build a six-lane road, three lanes each way.

To vigilant nearby homeowners, the plan looked overpowering - a turnpike, a super highway, an autobahn writ small, they howled. Highway department officials agreed during a public meeting that all six lanes aren't needed now. But they try to make new roads last for at least 15 years. By the end of that span, the extra lanes surely will be needed.

Debate continued, of course, as this was Howard County, home of citizen participation. It would be a developer-free zone were that possible. Yet just when the clamor seemed likely to take over, a thinking citizen offered a solution.

What if we build the six lanes, but mark only two for traffic? asked Kim Morgenstern, a resident who had come to the Oct. 4 public hearing. The third lane could be used as a shoulder until needed to handle traffic. Pending further study, all sides seemed to think that was a dandy solution.

So perhaps the momentum of bureaucracy can be slowed and redirected by creative thinking.

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