Road work brings hope for long-planned Odenton town center


An article about transportation improvements in Odenton in yesterday's edition of The Sun in Anne Arundel incorrectly identified the state agency that awarded the county a grant for some of the work.

The Mass Transit Administration gave the county $300,000 to make improvements around the Odenton Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) station.

The Sun regrets the error.

With the opening of a newly widened and landscaped Piney Orchard Parkway last week, 30-year-old plans for a town center in Odenton finally became tangible.

Planners say the parkway has raised hopes that the center will be built, and it has prompted calls from business investors inquiring about land.

"It looks like they're headed in the right direction, they've just been trying to do it for the last 20 years," said Sunny Patel, owner of Rieve's Deli on Piney Orchard Parkway near Route 175.

It has been longer than 20 years. County planners designated Odenton a growth area in the 1960s and made sure that when Route 32 was constructed it went around the designated 1,600 acres now known as the Odenton Town Center Growth Management Area. Although developments such as Piney Orchard and Seven Oaks have brought thousands of families to the community in the past decade, the area lacks retail businesses and services.

After the delay, Patel said, he's excited about the town plan.

"I just look forward to the way things will turn out in the near future," he said. "Hopefully it will be good for us and the community."

The $1.3 million parkway project widened the road from two lanes to four and added medians with plants and trees and antique-style lampposts.

County Executive John G. Gary announced at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday that the Maryland Transportation Authority has awarded the county a $300,000 grant to make improvements around the Odenton Maryland Rail Commuter train station, including sidewalks, curbs and more antique-style lampposts. The county is adding $178,000 to ensure all the work can be done. It is not known when the project will begin.

Also included in this year's budget is money to build a bike trail along Odenton Road, extend Morgan Road across Route 175 to Hale Road, purchase land for a regional library and design plans to widen and landscape Route 175.

Construction of the Odenton Road trail and Morgan Road extension is expected to begin early in the spring, said land use spokesman John Morris. Town Planner Michael Fox said library committee members will settle on a location in a few weeks and begin bidding for the land, and designs for Route 175 are under way.

"We are progressing really well," Fox said. Piney Orchard Parkway "was the first thing we could really get started right away. It really does seem to be a motivator. Everything we do out there seems to generate a positive attitude."

Fox said that at least five businesses -- including restaurants and convenience stores -- have inquired about buying land in and around town center.

"The fact that the activity is out there is encouraging," Fox said. "They're coming in and saying what they'd like to do instead of just saying, 'What have you got?' Most are seeing what steps they have to take to do business in the county."

But not every business owner is enthusiastic. Jackie Lewis, who owns Ace Hardware on Piney Orchard Parkway, said she bought land zoned for warehouse use within the center and considered moving her store or selling it to a company that wanted to build a warehouse.

"We were told that was not what they wanted over in town center, but they won't tell us what they want there," she said.

Bert Birkhead, owner of B&B; Pit Beef next door, said the new medians are making it difficult for traffic to enter and leave his parking lot. A higher speed limit on the parkway, from 30 mph to 40 mph, also means drivers are zooming past, focusing on the road, not the businesses along it, he said.

"It's a great improvement from what used to be here, but it hasn't helped my business," Birkhead said. "I could put a sign out saying free beef sandwiches, and I guarantee you only one in 80 cars will stop."

Pub Date: 6/29/98

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