Leeds Avenue residents welcome new I-695 ramp

Maryland State Highway Administration plans to relocate an Interstate 695 ramp met with approval from residents of Arbutus street plagued by traffic using the present ramp.

"It's wonderful — it's what we want," said Melissa Loverde, 44, who has lived in her Leeds Avenue home for eight years.

Loverde explained that rush hour traffic from train commuters using the nearby Halethorpe MARC train station after 5 p.m. on weekdays makes it difficult for residents to get out of their driveways, let alone cross the street.

This fall, residents can expect to see construction of a new ramp to I-695 begin. The ramp on Leeds Avenue will close permanently as a new ramp is built from Southwestern Boulevard (US 1) over Leeds Avenue.

The new ramp will be constructed over Leeds Avenue, in an effort to reduce traffic on local roads and provide better highway access for emergency response vehicles, according to the SHA.

The new ramp will be open for traffic in spring 2017, according to the SHA project schedule.

During construction, a detour will temporarily redirect those traveling on Leeds Avenue to US 1 southbound by way of Knecht or Linden avenues, then onto I-195 westbound. From I-195, traffic will be directed to I-95 northbound and then to the I-695 inner loop, according to SHA.

Another alternate route will direct those traveling north on US 1 to the left on Washington Boulevard to get to I-695, according to the SHA.

Renee Oswald, 52, who has lived on Leeds Avenue for 31 years, said she was "really happy" to hear about the change.

"The street is extremely busy in the evening," Oswald said.

Although it's convenient to have the ramp nearby, she is relieved that there will be less traffic down the street, she said.

Richard Greene, owner of Arbutus Auto Painting & Bodywork on Leeds Avenue, said the only negative aspect of the construction is losing the convenience of motorists being able to leave his, and shops on Leeds, and getting "right back on to the Beltway."

Otherwise, he sees the project as helping the community where his business has been located for 25 years.

"I think it will be a good thing for the neighborhood once it's done," Greene said.

Greene said most of his business comes from East Drive, not MARC station commuters, so he doesn't expect the change to decrease the amount of customers he serves.

Deborah Sebour, owner of Re/Max New Beginnings, an Arbutus that is listing a commercial property on Leeds, said having commuters bypass Leeds Avenue in the future will not harm area retailers.

"The train riders never stop to do business here in Arbutus," Sebour said. "They take up the streets, cause accidents and gridlock. They bring no revenue to the area."

Sebour said she is happy about plans to build a new ramp and expects it may, "slightly increase home values along Leeds Avenue."

Capt. Doug Simpkins Jr., of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department on Southwestern Boulevard, a short distance from Leeds Avenue, said he thinks the ramp will also improve noise quality for residents living on the road. With the new ramp, residents will no longer hear the sirens on their street when emergency response vehicles need to travel north on I-695, Simpkins said at a July 24 SHA meeting.

Gladys Murphy, 84, who has lived in her Leeds Avenue home for 49 years, said the sirens don't bother her.

"You get used to it. During the night, I don't hear any of that," Murphy said.

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