The Route 32 extension, once called the "missing link" that was to connect Columbia and central Anne Arundel County, finally opened yesterday, nearly 15 years after it was conceived.
Touted by officials as a boon to both Odenton residents and commuters, the road represents a major east-west addition to the state's transportation grid that is designed to ease congested traffic in the Baltimore-Washington business corridor.
"It's a beautiful day in western Anne Arundel County," said David G. Boschert, the County Council chairman. "Now the community of Odenton has Route 175 back to itself, and the commuters and workers at the National Security Agency have this beautiful highway."
The $23 million project completes a 4.3-mile stretch and links U.S. 29 in Columbia with Interstate 97.
The road provides commuters a four-lane highway from Columbia to Annapolis and enables them to avoid traffic that often backed up for miles on Route 175 near Fort Meade and the Odenton MARC train station.
State Highway Administration officials said some work -- access to Route 32 from Route 170, and construction near the National Security Agency -- still needs to be done. But for Odenton residents, the road will alleviate many traffic problems.
Even State Del. Marsha Perry, D-Crofton, couldn't resist praising the new road.
"I'm basically a tree-hugger," she said. "I'm not a highway-hugger. But this is a cause for celebration."
Hal Kassoff, the state highway administrator, said the road opening "is like seeing a baby born."
"For the first time in this state, you can cut across the middle of Maryland and get from Columbia to the state capital and the Eastern Shore," he said.
Route 32 is an east-west link in what Mr. Kassoff called the transportation grid that crisscrosses central Maryland. The next step in completing the grid is linking Route 100 from its dead end at Interstate 97 with Howard County, he said.
But the new road hasn't made everyone happy. Some store owners on Route 175 have complained that traffic is diverted from the local business district. And business owners in Gambrills have mounted a campaign to get an interchange built at Gambrills Road, which goes over the new Route 32.
But Mr. Kassoff said yesterday that it is doubtful any accommodations will be made. The SHA says providing access would be unsafe because of nearby interchanges.