As the long-proposed extension of East-West Highway (Rte. 410) across a 2.6-mile section of central Prince George's County comes closer to a reality, more and more residents are voicing opposition to it.
First proposed in the 1950s and called a "top-priority" road project by county officials and planners for the past 16 years, the four-to-six-lane, limited-access highway would speed the flow of cross-county traffic and improve access to Metro's New Carrollton station and the growing commerical and industrial area around it.
But many of the 125 residents who attended a recent meeting -- including some who say they learned about the extension plans only recently -- charge that the $40 million road would destroy residential neighborhoods already hemmed in by major highways. Several argued that it would be a waste of taxpayers' money. State officials have not disputed opponents' claims that by the time the road is built, which will not be before 1985, the cost of the project would reach $80 million or $90 million.
Although the state highway department held public hearings on the proposed location and design of the Rte. 410 extension last fall, it agreed to hold another meeting recently, and Maryland State Highway Administrator M. S. Caltrider attended the additional meeting called recently by opponents of the project.
Even if Carter approves construction of the highway after an environmental impact study is completed this summer, it is not likely to be built until 1985, and might never be built if "inflation keeps going the way it is," Caltrider told last week's gathering in Lanham Hills.
Much of the land the extension would cover already has been bought by the state or dedicated for the road by developers. The controversy appears to center chiefly on the intersection, however, particularly the large interchange proposed at Rte. 50.
"This highway is solely for the benefit of developers in the industrial park . . . and is opposed by the overwhelming majority of residents," said Herman McNeil, who lives on Ardwick-Ardmore Road and told others at the meeting he will lose his house if a large 50-410 interchange is built.
While county officials and planners first proposed that the state extend Rte. 410, county planners are now critical of the large cloverleaf interchanges being considered by the state.
"They (the cloverleafs) require excessive rights of way, structure work and weaving and merging of traffic," a county planner said at last fall's hearing, adding that the impact on the neighborhood would be "overwhelming."
The county recommended simpler interchange but that proposal already has been rejected, according to Lewis Helwig, state project manager for the 401 extension.
Caltrider agreed recently that the environmental impact statement will consider a "no-build" alternative, as well as citizen proposals to downgrade the road, build smaller interchanges that would keep heavy truck traffic off the road, or perhaps to build just the eastern end of 410, including a interchange with Rte. 50, which would improve access to Metro and the industrial park.
While the 410 plan has aroused a storm of protest, planning for another major highway project in the county -- the widening of 5.6 miles of Central Avenue (Rte. 214) between the Beltway and Capital Center and Rte. 301 -- so far has drawn only praise.
It too, however, suffers from money problems, and no state or federal construction funds will be available for it before 1986. That widening project is expected to cost at least $34 million.
The 214 project was dropped for lack of money after the state held public hearings on it in 1975, and has recently been reactivated even though acquisition of funds to build it may be fare in the future. A new environmental review of the road is under way, and new public hearings are expected to be held next January.
The widening of two-lane Rte. 214 to a four and six-lane road will create a second major highway between Washington and Annapolis, in addition to Rte. 50.
Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan has urged the state to speed up the Central Avenue widening, and in January the project was endorsed by the transportation planning, board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
One section of 214 inside the Beltway is now being widened and the state hopes to relocate and widen Routes 214 and 424 in Anne Arundel County, which would complete the expanded highway between Washington and the South River in Annapolis.
A public hearing was held last November on the Anne Arundel section, where present roads could be improved or a new, straighter 214-424 built across farmland. State officials are expected to decide the Anne Arundel road question in the next few months.
There are few buildings close to the road along the section of 214 proposed for widening, and traffic jams occur on it regularly as it serves the Capital Centre. Watkins Regional Park, Prince George's Community College and numerous subdivisions such as the Kettering community.