Just when Savage residents thought their traffic problems couldn't get any worse, the major road through their community has been closed for relocation and improvements.
The closure of Gorman Road from U.S. 1 to Foundry Street last Monday is expected to last another week, said James Irvin, county public works director.
The closure has angered Savage residents, who say that it has forced more traffic through the residential area on Baltimore Street, endangering children walking to school and tying up traffic through the community.
The current problem is made worse by the state's closure in July of part of the eastbound Route 32 exit ramp, which motorists had used as a merger lane onto U.S. 1 heading into Savage.
"We hate it," Betty Phelps, a Savage resident for 17 years said of the current traffic situation. "We're up in arms about it."
The latest snag is the result of work by the Sanford Companies, a Silver Spring-based developer relocating the part of Gorman Road from U.S. 1 to Foundry Street a few hundred feet south of the existing Gorman Road.
The relocation and improvement of Gorman Road is part of the companies' development project, called Freestate Associates Limited Partnership, which will include a neighborhood shopping center with a grocery store, banks and restaurants.
Residents agree that the old two-lane Gorman Road was full of dips, bumps and potholes and badly in need of repair.
The improved Gorman Road will have four lanes and a traffic signal to help motorists who now have to cross two lanes of traffic to make a left turn onto U.S. 1.
"We're very pleased with the way the project has come along," said Jim Counihan, a construction manager with CSS Development, a Greenbelt-based company hired by Freestate Associates Limited Partnership.
He admitted that the project, scheduled for completion by next Friday, has caused a short-term traffic increase in Savage. But he said it will improve traffic flow through the increased lanes and the addition of a traffic light at U.S. 1 and Gorman Road.
"It should actually take some traffic out of Savage," Mr. Counihan said.
Gene Straub, an assistant district engineer for the State Highway Administration, said that the new traffic light is scheduled to be turned on next spring.
The improved road conditions in Savage can't come soon enough for Larry White, owner of the Exxon gas station at U.S. 1 and Howard Street, now the main street used to enter and exit Savage.
Because of the construction trucks and heavy traffic, Mr. White has asked Howard County police to post a traffic guard for children walking to Bollman Bridge Elementary School at 8200 Savage Guilford Road.
"Kids can't get across the street," Mr. White said.
The heavy traffic also has made it difficult for cars to get to his gas station.
"Business is completely screwed up," he said. "If you come in here at 7 [a.m.], you can't get in the lot or out of the lot."
This is the second time in less than a year that Gorman Road has been closed for the Freestate development project. Developers closed the road last December to do preliminary work, filling Savage's usually peaceful roads with rush-hour traffic.
Motorists also are frustrated by traffic problems caused by the partial closure of the Route 32 exit ramp, a measure taken by state officials in July because of accidents in the area.
Because of that shutdown, some motorists cut across the median and plow through the plastic barrel barricades that block use of the closed section of road, known as a slip ramp.
County officials are sympathetic to the Savage residents' complaints about traffic, but say there is little that can be done to relieve the traffic until the light at Gorman Road and U.S. 1 is turned on.
In the meantime, Sgt. Glenn Hansen, Howard County traffic enforcement officer, said he is considering adding a traffic guard in Savage to help children walking to school.
"We're going to evaluate it," he said.