HOWARD COUNTY'S U.S. 29 has been a creeping mess for quite some time -- and don't expect any relief soon.
Thanks to runaway HoCo sprawl in what seems like the townhouse capital of Maryland, State Highway Administration engineers have been forced to add a third lane to the main artery to meet the demands of heavy commuter traffic.
Construction that began in April is expected to continue until next April, weather permitting, says SHA's Valerie Burnette Edgar. All Edgar could offer for advice last week was that motorists traveling northbound and southbound should continue to expect delays.
Specifically, Intrepid has learned: On Fridays, single lane closures may occur on southbound U.S. 29 between 10 a.m and 2 p.m. Those lanes will close again at 9 p.m. on Friday and remain blocked through the weekend.
Northbound traffic is likely to experience the same lane closures.
One footnote: Barrier walls blocking access to Old Columbia Road and Gales Lane from southbound U.S. 29 have been stationed to protect work crews. Commuters who want to gain access to these roads will be detoured to Broken Land Parkway and back onto northbound U.S. 29.
Burn that bridge when you get there
As summer winds down, many travelers will no doubt flock eastward across the Bay Bridge. Maryland Transportation Authority officials estimate that 329,380 vehicles will pay the $2.50 toll and cross the span this weekend en route to Labor Day gatherings.
The bridge, built in 1952 for $45 million, is formally known as the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge. Traffic moving across the 4-mile bridge has grown from 1.5 million vehicles to 20.5 million vehicles annually, transportation officials say.
To many, this is a bridge known for gridlock. To others, it's a white-knuckle, nerve-wracking drive over the Chesapeake Bay between Sandy Point and Stevensville. In any event, the structure is one of Maryland's most prominent landmarks -- and also one of its most controversial roads.
Some true stories:
* "I was stuck on the Bay Bridge the first or the second week of June and ended up being right behind a friend," says Mag Hithal. "We had six kids and two dogs, and we sat in the middle of the span for a good hour and a half and had a picnic and watched the boats. It was actually fun."
* "I have a place in Ocean City," says Frank Lipscomb of Millersville. "I had a CB radio, when we would get stuck in traffic, I would turn that on, and you'd be surprised at some of the hilarious stories we would hear -- I assume from locals. They were stories telling why we chicken-neckers are trying to cross the bridge to get to Ocean City. It really used to break me up."
* "As we cross the Bay Bridge, our attention is riveted to the pond between the spans," says Ernest Michaelson of Hanover. "A pair of swans graces the murky water and turns the pond into a work of art. The view lasts only a few minutes as we try not to ram the traffic ahead, but the visual impact lasts for many miles. We watched in fascination this spring as one swan was hiding in the grasses while the other stood guard on the water. The next trip treated us with five baby swans swimming between their parents. If anything is more beautiful. we have yet to experience it."
* "An accident on the westbound span of the Bay Bridge left my husband and me (thankfully without our two preschoolers) stopped at the very highest point for almost 90 minutes on June 19," says Erin Drew of Salisbury. "The 90 minutes was actually quite nice: Parents with children and couples holding hands strolled past us, little kids kicked pebbles and watched how long it took them to fall into the bay and my husband even changed into his running clothes for a brief jog before the accident was cleared."
And from commuter Sheila Myers, a personal triumph: "I'm calling about my Bay Bridge walk. I've been living with cancer for 12 years and it just seemed like each time the Bay Bridge Walk was held I was either having treatment or recovering from treatment. Finally, about three years ago, I was able to go on the Bay Bridge walk and actually completed it. This was a wonderful, wonderful thing for me."
The average cost of self-service regular unleaded gasoline for Labor Day is expected to be $1.07 per gallon. That's 18 cents cheaper than last year's cost at the same time. Look for Red Run Boulevard in Owings Mills to fully open on Sept. 8. That added passage along the main drag in Baltimore County's northern Town Center should ease rush hour gridlock there now, traffic experts hope. Harford Road from Taylor Avenue to Alden Road will be closed Sept. 13 from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. for the annual Parkville Towne Centre Fair. Carroll County residents will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday in Westminster's County Office Building to consider speed controls for Monroe Avenue.
Pub Date: 8/31/98