First sign of renewal for U.S. 1

Markers denoting communities set for repair, replacing

January 21, 2002|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

A long-planned face lift of U.S. 1 could begin in a modest way by this summer, when Howard County officials hope to begin renovating signs identifying communities along the corridor.

Planners are unsure how much it will cost to repair or replace community identification signs in North Laurel, Savage, Jessup and Elkridge, but say plans should be finalized in time to begin construction by midsummer.

The county has about $750,000 to spend on roadside improvements. Many people hope the signs - which might cost about $10,000 each - will be the first step in implementing change along U.S. 1, which has been targeted for redevelopment.

"We're at the point where we need to start producing," said Councilman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat.

Many of the community signs have fallen into disrepair. Local groups often hang posters and banners on the North Laurel sign, a drab, squat chunk of rock tucked into a grove of trees. The sign is visible only to southbound traffic.

"Not that you can read the sign anyway. It's not very useful in terms of letting you know where you are," said Glen Jones, a 33-year-old Jessup resident who was eating a hamburger recently at a nearby restaurant.

"Looks like a big bench in the middle of nowhere," Jones said.

County planners hope to rebuild the sign in a location that would be more visible to traffic and pedestrians. A new sign also should increase community identity along the road, officials say. "It's a step in defining the corridor," said Dace Blaumanis, a county planner involved in the project.

The community signs, planned in brick or stone, will be the first step in implementing Phase 1 of the Route 1 Corridor Revitalization Study.

The first phase of the study, based on recommendations of a group of volunteers who discussed changes to the road for nearly a year, addresses issues that can be fixed within one to four years.

These include new sidewalks, streetlights and perhaps welcome banners to communities.

Phase 2 of the study, which is being discussed by volunteers, will concentrate on policy changes, such as incentives for revitalization that could spur redevelopment.

While leaders are excited about new signs, they caution that it is merely the first step in changing the highway.

"It took a long time for Route 1 to get this bad, so it will take a long time to improve it," said Steven Adler, co-chairman of the Route 1 Revitalization Committee, which made the recommendations for the study.

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