Letters To the Editor

Letters To the Editor

April 11, 2004

State continues to work on Md. 32

This is in response to Debbie Izzi's recent letter to the editor regarding safety improvements proposed for the Md. 32 project, from Md. 108 to I-70, in Howard County ("Article on Route 32 raises red flags," March 28). Safety is the top priority of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

As past studies have shown, this section of Md. 32 has historically experienced serious safety problems. Numerous interim improvements completed in the past 10 years have addressed the more serious safety related issues. These improvements have included upgrading the centerline pavement markings in the no-passing zones, providing geometric improvements at various intersections, installing intersection lighting, traffic signals, hazard identification beacons, school bus warning signs, and speed enforcement. Although there has been success with these improvements in place, rear-end accidents and the associated property damage has increased at this intersection every year since 1996. A review of accident data compiled during the three-year period of January 31, 2000, through December 31, 2003, indicates that the rates for these types of accidents remain higher than the statewide average.

The Burntwoods Road intersection, the second signalized intersection south of I-70, currently experiences heavy traffic congestion during the a.m. peak travel period. The numerous access points, driveways and the signalized intersection with Ten Oaks Road, within the vicinity of the Burntwoods Road intersection on Md. 32, present potentially hazardous conditions for motorists making left-turns. In addition, the vertical curvature of Md. 32 limits sight distance for motorists approaching the existing Burntwoods Road intersection. In order to address these issues, we are proposing to flatten the existing curve on Md. 32 and consolidate the access points to Ten Oaks Road, Burntwoods Road, and Pfefferkorn Road by including an interchange at Burntwoods Road and Md. 32. This would provide a safer condition for motorists. Moreover, Howard County officials have continued to rate Md. 32 improvements as "high" on their priority list, and the project is consistent with the county's Master Plan.

Governor Ehrlich has directed the Maryland Department of Transportation to put "safety first, and congestion second." The proposed project outlined above fulfills both of those requirements, and we are committed to making these safety improvements with minimal interference to motorists and area residents.

Robert L. Flanagan


The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Town Center wants a voice in its future

The Howard County Council, acting in its Zoning Board capacity, has denied the petition of the Rouse Company to increase the density of housing to 2.5 units per acre in New Town Columbia. A series of hearings for almost eight months only said, "no," and offered little insight on future directions. "No" meant zero new residences were authorized beyond the requested development in Oakland Mills and 100 units to be built anywhere except in Town Center.

Most of the new residences were destined for the Town Center as the fulfillment of the original plan to have a vibrant peopled center of the new city. If Columbia is capped at 2.35 [units per acre] it will mean that Town Center's planned growth in population will be reduced possibly by about 40% of what could have been. Only those few projects already approved will continue to progress. Town Center thus would cap its population at around 5,000 in a year or two. The Zoning Board says it will study the matter further, possibly assuming new powers replacing the planning board as arbiter of what is done further in Town Center. The Zoning Board has no vision to replace the one it denied.

Columbia Town Center residents now read the personal views of our elected representatives who are trying to divine the future. We read that there may be a central park or stores behind the Merriweather Post Pavilion. We see different visions of what Merriweather Post should become. We hear of speculation that Town Center will be made safe for pedestrian access. We who live a few hundred feet away from the commercial center would hope to be able to walk to restaurants and shops instead of always driving. ...

Among those who addressed the future of Columbia's Town Center were many people from various villages of Columbia where residential development is essentially finished. There was substantial input from others in Howard County. We take this to mean that Town Center is viewed as the center of Maryland's second largest population center, Columbia, and it is important to them. Of course the numbers of those adamantly opposed to the completion of development in Town Center was a surprise since they had no plan to offer, only a "no" for reasons often difficult to discern.

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