West Laurel residents oppose placement of new ICC lanes

As construction on the State Highway Administration's Intercounty Connector inches closer toward completion, some residents of West Laurel are voicing opposition to a portion of the development on Interstate 95 South, citing that the development is infringing on their neighborhood.

According to West Laurel Civic Association President Melissa Daston, the construction of collector distributor lanes, or C/D lanes, along I-95 South north of the Route 198 Interchange will cause elevated noise levels for nearly 60 families living in the nearby neighborhood.

"The 60 families living by this will now have to live with the latest encroachment of I-95 on their backyards," Daston said.

The state's Intercounty Connector spokesman Ray Feldmann said the C/D lanes, which will run parallel to I-95 in both directions, will allow drivers a space to gradually decrease and increase speed before exiting at the Route 198 interchange and a new interchange at Contee Road, which is currently under construction.

The new interchange, known as the Contee Road interchange, is being built to accommodate the anticipated increased traffic in the area due to future economic development, which includes the Konterra development, said SHA spokeswoman Kelly Boulwar.

Feldmann said the C/D lane on I-95 South will begin just south of the Brooklyn Bridge overpass, and will make it easier to enter and exit I-95.

The C/D lanes, which Feldmann says are required because of the ICC and the Contee Road interchange, are being implemented to handle the traffic volume on the highway.

"There was a misconception that the C/D lanes were additional lanes of traffic, but these lanes are not expected to generate any additional traffic value," Feldmann said. "This is not an additional lane of traffic, this is a lane that will take traffic off I-95 earlier."

Feldmann said he and other representatives met with residents of West Laurel in early June to help address some of the concerns.

"I think residents in the community were more surprised by the additional work on the ICC than anything else," Felmann said.

Feldmann said that because the C/D lane is not an additional lane of traffic, noise is not expected to increase.

"A thorough noise analysis was performed during the planning phase of the ICC project and that analysis showed that the addition of the CD lanes would not generate any significant increase in noise levels because the C/D lanes will not generate additional traffic volume on their own," Feldmann said in an email.

As a result of the analysis, Feldmann said the SHA has no plans to modify the existing sound walls to muffle the noise, other than moving a small section of the wall as necessary for construction of the C/D lanes.

Tree removal

According to Daston, some residents said noise levels have increased since the original barrier was put in, and they fear that the C/D lane will increase noise levels further.

Daston added that residents were also concerned about the removal of trees on both sides of the barrier, which would contribute to increased noise levels.

Feldmann said since the design is not complete, the SHA does not have a firm idea of how many trees will be cut down for the project.

"We cannot say with certainty how many trees will be impacted until the design is final and the 'limits of disturbance' are set," Feldmann said.

Feldmann emphasized that all the work on the C/D lanes is being done in between the sound barrier and the highway, and not on the other side of the barrier.

Daston said a request from West Laurel residents to replant large, fast-growing pine trees was denied, along with a request to increase the sound barrier.

West Laurel resident Barbara Sollner-Webb said although she doesn't live near the area where the C/D lanes are being put in, she sometimes can hear noise from the Interstate.

"It's not as loud for us, but we do hear it," Sollner-Webb said. "I only suspect it will become louder."

In addition to requesting more trees and a heavier sound barrier, some residents have also requested that the SHA look into starting the C/D lanes south of Route 198, which would eliminate the impact on West Laurel residents.

According to Feldmann, moving the C/D lanes south places the road alignment in a location that is not "geometrically-compatible," and is therefore not feasible.

"That suggestion was given serious consideration and was thoroughly reviewed by SHA staff," Feldmann said.

According to an Aug. 2 letter from acting Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Darrell Mobley, two other alternatives proposed by the residents were not deemed not viable or feasible.

"No matter what the question, the ICC was not required to soften the impact on residents," Daston said.

Feldmann anticipates that, weather permitting, the project, which also includes the construction of an exit that would connect the ICC to Route 1 and Virginia Manor Road, will be completed by late 2013 or the beginning of 2014.

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