What next for Route 175? Ecker would be justified in delaying a costly interchange on busy highway.


THERE ARE NO easy solutions to the traffic problems along Route 175. The State Highway Administration has rejected a plan to build a controversial system of left turns at key intersections along the roadway. Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker now has a difficult choice: Proceed with an expensive overpass there or settle for relatively minor tinkering at one of the county's worst intersections.

The expense of the project seems to justify a decision to delay construction of an interchange. After all, county residents are in no rush for higher taxes, and an overpass at Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway would cost either $13 million or $17.5 million, depending on the design.

No doubt, the intersection clogs up during peak morning and evening rush hours, and the problem is apt to get worse. County engineers predict that evening rush hour traffic at Route 175 and Snowden River will rise from 5,664 vehicles in 1995 to 8,102 in 2000, somewhat less if Route 100 is completed.

Republican State Sen. Martin G. Madden and residents who depend heavily on the intersection insist that the county promised to build an overpass when it outlined plans for the Columbia Crossing shopping center. The shopping complex and residential construction that is booming along Snowden River north of Route 175 is generating more traffic.

Some wonder whether Mr. Ecker, in spite of his good-natured reputation, is thumbing his nose at the community for having criticized his less expensive option, the novel "dispersed movement" intersection. More likely, by balking at an expensive overpass, the two-term county executive is simply being true to his reputation for fiscal frugality, which has been key to his popularity among voters.

Motorists on Route 175 can expect to spend 10 minutes driving the five miles or so between Interstate 95 and U.S. 29 during morning and evening peak periods. Indeed, that can be maddening when you're anxious to get home or to work. But it is not as severe as the problems faced daily by drivers along beltways in Baltimore and Washington and other roads in the metropolitan region. Mr. Ecker is right to suggest that a twice-a-day delay probably does not merit such an expensive fix.

Pub Date: 11/04/96

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