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State plans noise barrier for homes near Route 50 ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY--Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale


Esther Stephens knows it's morning by the rumble of rush-hour traffic that shakes her out of sleep in her modern suburban home at Heritage Harbour.

Living next to Route 50, the heavily traveled corridor between Annapolis and Washington, has been a noisy nightmare, she told the governor yesterday.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer stopped by her neighborhood to announce that residents will soon be protected by a sound barrier. He brought the same tidings of relief to North River Forest on the other side of Route 50 and to a Laurel neighborhood off Interstate 95 in Prince George's County.

When the governor pulled up at Heritage Harbor yesterday morning, Ms. Stephens rushed out of her home with a camera.

"I live right down there in that last house, and I'll tell you I appreciate this," she told the governor with a smile, pointing to her property next to the busy highway. "I'll give you a big, old kiss."

The governor deferred on the kiss, but promised to collect it as soon as the sound barrier is installed.

He told state transportation officials to complete the project, estimated to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million, by the end of the year.

For residents of Heritage Harbor, a development of single-family homes that cost more than $200,000, the governor's visit ended a decade-long battle to shield the community from the noisy traffic on Route 50.

The four-lane highway known as the Capital Corridor is being expanded to six lanes. Construction has exacerbated the noise from the cars and tractor-trailers roaring past at all hours.

"It's increasingly loud. The sound levels have gone up considerably," said Bill Hathaway, an instructor at the Baltimore County campus of the University of Maryland and president of the homeowners' association.

When he relaxes on his deck at night, he tries to pretend the distant rumble is a stream, Mr. Hathaway said. But it's gotten harder lately.

Mr. Hathaway and other residents said they were told the state would be installing sound barriers along Route 50 when they purchased their homes in the early 1980s. But a couple of years ago, state transportation officials measured the decibel levels and determined that Heritage Harbor did not meet the threshold for action.

Frustrated by the decision, the homeowners association decided to review the state's measurements. Egil Angeid, a physicist and engineering consultant who lives in Heritage Harbor, checked the data and found that the State Highway Administration had erred in its calculations.

"You proved we were wrong," Governor Schaefer acknowledged. He went on to say that he faced a difficult decision between spending limited highway funds on sound barriers or repairing Maryland's crumbling bridges.

Ms. Stephens joined a chorus of residents reassuring the governor that he had made the right choice.

"The traffic is terrible, and it's increasing more and more," said Henry Handler, the former president of the homeowners' association and a retired Army lieutenant colonel. "My whole house vibrates."

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