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Officials May Back Alternative to Waldorf Bypass

By Todd Shields
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 1, 1997; Page D02

Charles County officials said yesterday they may support improvements to a main commercial route through the Southern Maryland jurisdiction as an alternative to a state-proposed bypass that has sparked fierce local opposition.

Participants in a state-funded task force had rejected an improvement of Route 301 to alleviate growing congestion. The task force's final report last year instead called for a six-lane, 12-mile, $450 million bypass around the bustling commercial center of Waldorf.

But opponents of that proposal, in a series of public meetings that ended Tuesday, managed to revive the improvement of Route 301 as a possibility, after presenting an engineer's report that said Route 301 could be improved to handle the area's growing traffic without displacing any businesses, elected officials said. Task force analysts had rejected the 301 upgrade as an option partly because it would displace 45 businesses.

County commissioners will consider the upgrade, as well as the bypass, in a process that could stretch into next year, said Murray D. Levy (D), president of the county commissioners.

The commissioners and local state lawmakers will offer recommendations on the project to Gov. Parris N. Glendening and other state officials, who ultimately will decide whether the bypass will be built.

Opposition by local officials would likely kill the state-sponsored bypass project, said state Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton (D-Charles).

Bypass opponents called on the county's five commissioners to move quickly against the proposed road, promising that the project would be an issue in local elections next year.

"They have all the information they need," said Amy Freise, organizer of Citizens Against the Waldorf Bypass, a local advocacy group. "[The] hearing process is complete. Make a decision."

But officials said they needed time to analyze all the options.

"We're far from reaching a decision. We need a lot more information," Levy said. He said officials wanted to see more precise plans for the proposed bypass's alignment and to closely study the 301 improvement option. County officials said they may try to put the matter to the voters by referendum in next year's elections.

The three-year task force study called for the bypass to be built west of Waldorf as part of improvements to 50 miles of Route 301, from U.S. Route 50 to the Potomac River. The changes are meant to accommodate residential growth that is expected to more than double traffic on parts of Route 301 during the next 20 years.

The bypass proposal sparked immediate controversy in Charles County, where opponents say it would spur development of farm fields and woodland tracts, while routing interstate traffic near more than 40 Charles County subdivisions.

A local retired engineer, Harry Kriemelmeyer, said Route 301 could be improved by building overpasses and access roads along Route 301's most troublesome stretch in Waldorf.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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