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Out of the race? Speedway: Unlikely to find a better location, Owens should have tried to fix problems with this one.


IF A BETTER site exists for a speedway in Anne Arundel County, it is as big a secret as the annual budget of the National Security Agency. By rejecting a site in Pasadena, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens is implying that better locations can be found in the county for a 54,000-seat motor speedway.

Yet if that's so, why didn't these sites surface earlier in Chesapeake Motorsports Development Corp.'s exhaustive, two-year search for a home for its racetrack?

Ms. Owens, who took office in early December, is taking a gamble by starting the process all over again. It is quite possible that Chesapeake Motorsports, after abandoning a proposal in Baltimore County, may also forgo Anne Arundel. That would mean the loss of millions of dollars of property and entertainment tax revenues needed in a growing suburban jurisdiction with a property tax cap and a lot of needs. Losing this speedway may mean Ms. Owens will have to trim some of her spending plans.

That is not to suggest the Pasadena site was without problems. The previous council decided not to address them when it railroaded the project through the legislative process. Ms. Owens and the new council should reconsider the existing legislation and impose some conditions the speedway would have to satisfy if built.

The major issue is traffic. Residents are right that the current network of roads would be overwhelmed on race days. The speedway needs a dedicated exit from the Baltimore Beltway to keep racetrack traffic out of residential neighborhoods. If one cannot be established, perhaps Chesapeake Motorsports should find another site. But Ms. Owens' decision, minus a viable alternative, seems yet another misstep in the checkered history of this proposal.

Pub Date: 1/01/99

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