Commuters will have a straight shot to the Baltimore Beltway from Pasadena beginning next month, when the State Highway Administration opens the final leg of Route 10.

The four-lane, 2.65-mile extension will link Route 2 north of Pasadena Road to Route 100 south of Mountain Road. Drivers headed for the Beltway will then have the choice of merging onto Route 10 or following Route 100 to Route 3.

Either way, they will save time and aggravation by avoiding bottlenecks on routes 2 and 3 when Route 10 opens, tentatively scheduled for March 2.

Commuters who now enter Route 100 north of Jumpers Hole Road will avoid the congested stretch of Route 2 from Severna Park to Pasadena.

A mild winter last year and good soil conditions allowed highway crews to build the road faster than anticipated. The roadhad been scheduled to open by this November.

Construction crews began clearing trees for the final, $14.4 million extension to RitchieHighway in January 1990.

Route 10 earned a reputation as the "road to nowhere" after officials built a spur in 1978 that, for more than a decade, ran from the beltway to Marley Creek. There, the road stopped and dumped traffic on to a jammed Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.

Highway officials later built a bridge over Marley Creek as part of a 4.6-mile link to Mountain Road and Route 100.

The road had been on the state's drawing board since 1956, when engineers planned the Arundel Expressway to run from the beltway to Annapolis. Ultimately, planners chose the new Interstate 97, along the Route 3-Route 178 corridor, as a more direct and less costly route to Annapolis.

State planners expect some 65,000 cars to travel the expressway daily when it is completed next month.

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