Construction is scheduled to start within two weeks on a new four-lane section of Route 32 that will help accommodate the growth of Columbia's final village and ease east-west traffic congestion.
The State Highway Administration's 4.4-mile Route 32 relocation project, which will extend from Route 108 in Clarksville to one-half mile east of the Middle Patuxent River, will relieve the burden on the current two-lane Route 32, also known as Guilford Road.
The new section of highway, which also includes half a mile of reconstruction on the old Route 32 west of Route 108, is expected to be completed by spring 1996. It will be a welcome sight for residents, especially commuters, who live in River Hill village, Columbia's 10th community.
The village, which has about 200 homes now and is to have nearly 1,700 dwelling units by 1998, is being constructed adjacent to Clarksville, west of the river, north of the existing Route 32 and southeast of Route 108.
"Route 32 and Route 108 in Clarksville are very congested during rush hour," said Elliott Cowan, vice chairman of the River Hill village board and an attorney with a Baltimore law firm. "Everyone hopes [the relocated Route 32] will alleviate that and make life better, not only for River Hill residents but for all Howard County residents."
The long-awaited project is another step in a comprehensive state plan to improve safety and traffic flow on the highway, which stretches from Westminster to Annapolis and links up with major north-south thoroughfares such as U.S. 29, Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
The state has awarded a $28 million contract for the job to a Delta, Pa., company.
The existing Route 32 has been "feeling the pressure" of commuters coming not only from Howard County, but from Carroll and Frederick counties, said Carl Balser, county transportation planning chief.
"Guilford Road is one of the worst remaining sections of Route 32. It's narrow, winding and dangerous, and there have been a number of accidents," Mr. Balser said. "The need to relocate it and improve it has been there for a long time."
Interchanges will be constructed at Route 108 in Clarksville, Great Star Drive and Pindell School Road.
Howard Research and Development, a subsidiary of the Rouse Co., Columbia's developer, plans to build Great Star Drive, which will be River Hill's main link with the new highway. The Great Star Drive interchange will allow only eastbound access to the highway for River Hill residents.
The Rouse Co. has counted on the construction of a new highway since the mid-1960s, when plans for River Hill were being formed, said David Forester, Rouse vice president and senior development director.
Mr. Balser said the improved highway will be important to Rouse's schedule for construction of the new village.
The county has an adequate public facilities ordinance, which requires that roads must be adequate to accommodate planned growth and can slow down projects, he said.
The River Hill village board will work with the Columbia Association to ensure that pathways and playgrounds are a safe distance from the highway and with Rouse to ensure that "adequate screening" is provided for housing lots on each side of the road, Mr. Cowan said.
"The village is touted as the most green [in Columbia], but here we have a major superhighway going through it," he said. "I have a concern that lots bordering [the highway] be as amenable as other lots."
Mr. Forester said Rouse is constructing berms where possible and that the elevation of some lots will help obscure them from the highway.
During construction, single lanes will be closed at times on roads within the project area, including Route 108, Pindell School Road, Cedar Lane, Sanner Road, Ten Oaks Road and Mill Road. The lane closings will be restricted to between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.