Solving our region's growing traffic problems is an urgent priority for all of us. For some, however, the urgency is even greater. A few extra minutes shaved off a working parent's commuting time is important, but a few extra minutes shaved off the response time of an ambulance crew can make the difference between life and death.

As Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening's Transportation Solutions Group prepares to release its final report on suburban Maryland's east-west transportation needs next month, I hope that it considers the impact that traffic delays are having on those in our community who are in need of urgent medical care.

Others can speak to the impact of worsening congestion on our economy, on the quality of life for our families and on our region's future ability to attract and retain businesses and skilled employees. However, severe traffic congestion and an inadequate road network also are affecting our ability to carry out an essential missions: saving the lives of those in our community who suffer from critical injuries and life-threatening illnesses.

In particular, I am concerned about maintaining our ability to safely and effectively transport patients in and around the area on a road network that is increasingly gridlocked for far longer than what used to be known as rush hour.

As bad as traffic is now, it will continue to worsen without additional road capacity, including a new highway along the proposed alignment for an intercounty connector. For obvious reasons, mass transit is not an option for our most urgent medical transportation needs.

While much of the debate about this issue understandably has centered around quality-of-life issues, which is understandable, some of us have more urgent concerns.

Those of us who provide emergency medical care must be able to depend upon our road system to serve the community. Road conditions now are making this critical task more difficult each day.

We do not need more study and more delay. We need to move forward on construction of a new cross-county parkway, and we need to do it now.

-- Brian G. Grissler

is president and CEO of Suburban Hospital Healthcare Systems Inc. and a member of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.