Leave Route 32 alone, some residents say 200 attend session to discuss proposals for road's expansion


Despite increasing concerns about traffic and safety on Route 32, some western Howard County residents said last night they would rather keep their congested road instead of changing it into a sleek four-lane highway.

"I think that it's a lot of building and destruction in an area that I find lovely," said Diane Deering of Glenelg. "This would only benefit people who don't live here and are driving through our neighborhoods to get somewhere else."

But some other residents had no idea about what should be done to ease congestion.

"Traffic on 32 is absolutely horrific. Something has to be done, but I'm not astute enough to figure out what," said John Finamore in remarks typical of the latter group.

More than 200 residents attended an information workshop last night at Glenelg High School on a proposal to widen Route 32 between Route 108 and Interstate 70 from two lanes to four.

Once a rural road traveled by horse-and-carriage, Route 32 has become a congested thoroughfare for commuters and, State Highway Administration planners say, is expected to carry as many as 29,900 vehicles a day in 2020 -- a 63 percent increase from a 1997 count of 18,300 a day.

"We see congestion on Route 32 today, and it's going to get worse in the future," said Robert Ritter, project manager for the State Highway Administration, which is proposing the expansion. "That's going to present congestion problems, safety problems, problems for people trying to access 32."

Highway officials outlined three proposals for the nine-mile stretch of Route 32.

One would require no expansion, only resurfacing and paving.

A second proposal would include widening the thoroughfare to four lanes with interchanges and entrance and exit ramps installed at, among other locations, Linden Church Road, Nixon's Farm and Route 144. The improvements could cost as much as $153 million.

The third proposal would eliminate the interchange at Nixon's Farm and could cost as much as $139 million.

The expansion would mean the loss of nine homes and one business. If approved, construction could begin in 2000.

"We will have more traffic. I'm not denying that," Ritter said. "But it will operate smoother, safer, and that's what we're trying to accomplish" with expansion.

Carl Balser, the county's chief of transportation planning, said county officials do not prefer one option over the others.

"We see a need for expansion as a long-range need," he said. "We think it's fine for the state to be doing this kind of planning."

But a resident said that the expansion would encourage more traffic along the Route 32 corridor.

"If you go south right now, you can see the traffic building past Columbia," said Ida Warfield, who lives just south of the Howard-Carroll County line. "You have to plan your schedule to get in and out during the peak hours."

Karen Bellamy, who lives in Columbia's River Hill, said truck traffic would increase.

"At 3: 30 in the morning, you can hear the trucks barreling down the road every 30 minutes, and by 5: 30, it's continual noise," Bellamy said. "It's just unbearable."

Haddox Sothoron warned that road expansion will invite more development into the area.

"It's a domino effect," said Sothoron, a West Friendship homeowner. "You get more roads and more development, more roads and more development, until you're saturated."

But Councilman Charles C. Feaga, who represents the western county, pointed out that much of the land along the Route 32 corridor is developed, zoned for low-density development or committed to the local land preservation program.

"This road should not create additional development," he said. "We have to have 32 completed."

Pub Date: 6/17/98

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