Charles County officials, anxious to see a new major commuter link built there, are drawing fire from residents of the Indian Head Highway corridor in southern Prince George's County who say it would only shift traffic burdens to that heavily congested route.
Commuters from such communities as La Plata and Waldorf are backing state plans to improve and extend Rte. 228, creating a northern spur that would link Crain Highway (Rte. 301) and Indian Head (Rte. 210), both major north-south highways.
Most of the eight design alternatives for the new Rte. 228 propose that the road follow its current path through Charles County and then veer south short of the Prince George's line toward one of several proposed connections with Indian Head Highway.
More than 300 Prince George's residents squeezed into a school auditorium in Accokeek last week to tell State Highway Administration officials that an extended Rte. 228 would shift thousands of vehicles each day to traffic-clogged Indian Head.
"I am concerned about the traffic jams because I am a part of them," said Mary Travers, an employe of the Prince George's Department of Aging, who lives in Accokeek. "Residents of Charles County . . . please find a new way to solve your problems . . . ."
The transportation department had originally planned to hold only one hearing on the proposal -- last June in Charles County, where the response to the plan was largely favorable. It held a second hearing at the demand of Prince George's residents.
"The June hearing was to decide how the people of Charles County wanted to carve up southern Prince George's," one angry resident testified last week.
The highway administration "has not to my satisfaction provided any information or details on how much worse things will get on Indian Head Highway," said state Del. Gary Alexander (D-Prince George's), who as a member of the House Appropriations committee, threatened to hold up any state money allocated for planning the project.
State officials said, however, that transportation in the area will only get worse if the major routes in southern Prince George's and northern Charles counties are not improved.
"Our analyses show that the existing road network cannot absorb projected traffic needs," said Donald Honeywell, the project manager for the Rte. 228 study. "Collisions would increase."
Traffic tie-ups on all three major north-south commuting routes through the counties have been a problem for some time.
Construction is now under way to turn the southern part of Indian Head Highway into a dual highway, and funds have been approved to construct a new access ramp from the highway to Rte. 295 near its intersection with the Capital Beltway.
But not everyone in Prince George's has decided that the new road is a bad idea. "Who are we in Prince George's to dictate to people in Charles County where they want their roads built?" said state Sen. Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr., who represents southern Prince George's.
William B. Amonett, chairman of the Prince George's County Council and a representative of the southern county, says that the road might be needed eventually, but that it should not be built now.
"Most of the road will be in Charles County, but 100 percent of the impact will be in Prince George's County," Amonett said.
Some critics also contend that the road improvements will facilitate unwanted growth. Those opponents, led by Brandywine resident Carmen Anderson, have dubbed the proposed link the "Waldorf-Accokeek Turnpike."
"This project is the brainchild of Charles County, the Charles County Chamber of Commerce and the Charles County Economic Development Authority," one member of the Accokeek Citizens Association charged. Marland Deen, the chairman of the Charles County commissioners, told the Prince George's residents that the new road is under only preliminary study.
"I think that's spelled s-t-u-d-y in our language in Charles County," Deen said to the almost palpably hostile audience.