Park or rush-hour parking lot?


April 03, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

More on a question posed recently: Does the federal government plan to address stifling traffic on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway?

The short answer is no, according to the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration, owners of the southern portion of the parkway.

But it's the reasoning behind the answer - the original vision for the parkway - that's interesting, especially for rush-hour commuters who try to pass the time in standstill traffic.

Consider what the purpose of the road is for commuters, for the federal government, and for the state of Maryland, which owns the northern chunk of the road.

Drivers may appreciate the secluded views of wilderness that the 29-mile parkway offers, but for most people who live in the region, it's all about getting from Point A to Point B with as little aging as possible. Homes and businesses are multiplying along this corridor because it provides direct access to the two urban behemoths, not to mention ever-sprawling Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

You don't mind smelling the roses along the parkway, as long as you don't have to stop to do it.

Maryland transportation officials would agree, based on construction projects slated for 10.5-mile state-owned section of Route 295. In the face of increasing development along the parkway corridor, the state is set to spend nearly $26 million in the coming years to add lanes near the Baltimore Beltway.

Clearly, Maryland's view is that the parkway should grow to meet the demands of the future.

Clearly, Washington's view is different. The congressional legislation authorizing the parkway in 1950 sought to "control location" and "limit the number of access points" along the roadway.

"They wanted to keep and maintain it largely as a park," said Bill Line, spokesman for the National Park Service, the agency responsible for the 18.5-mile stretch that the federal government owns, from New York Avenue in Washington to Route 175 in Jessup.

The prevailing philosophy of parkways some 50 years ago involved creating out-of-the-way roads that were more scenic than practical and more reminiscent of a back road than a freeway. That thinking holds true today: The parkway, at least the federally controlled portion, is considered an extension of the national parks system. In fact, it's on the National Registry of Historic Places.

So don't hold your breath for construction to come to the parkway's southern end. Better to appreciate the unchanging scenery and save your voice for phoning your congressman.

What construction is under way at Route 198 near the Little Patuxent River?

Over the next few weeks, the State Highway Administration will eliminate the big bumps in the bridges that traverse the river. While workers perform deck patching and repair bridge joints, one-way traffic will be alternating over the bridges between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each weekday. No work is scheduled on the weekends.

If you normally use this stretch of 198, use Route 32 to access Laurel or Fort Meade. Otherwise, you will spend several minutes at a standstill while waiting to pass through.

The construction will help regulate traffic in the mornings and evenings. The bumps in the bridges have forced drivers to slow from 40 mph or 50 mph to just a few miles per hour to cross, increasing the risk of rear-end crashes.

What is the status of the county's online version of its bus-route map?

It is up and running.

Visit and look for the section marked "News Flash."

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Phillip McGowan at or send faxes to 410-269-4224 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun, 60 West St., Annapolis 21401.

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