County Officials Focus on Listening
A public forum on a new transportation plan held at Annapolis High School gave residents a chance express their thoughts, and concerns, about regional traffic.
County officials did little talking at a meeting Tuesday night, but it seems to be an intentional move.
Officials from the Anne Arundel County Office of Planning and Zoning held the second of three "listening sessions" regarding the Transportation Functional Master Plan (TFMP) at Annapolis High School, in hopes of hearing from those who understand traffic patterns at the most basic of levels—drivers.
The TFMP is a study being conducted by the county to look at how to best address traffic congestion in nine of the most heavily used corridors in Anne Arundel County. The study is still in its infancy, and will take about 12 to 18 months to complete, planning and zoning officials said.
The county has hired Sabra, Wang and Associates, an outside consultant, to help complete the study. Paul Silberman, a senior associate with the firm, said the listening sessions were deliberately interactive and open.
"The county staff and the consulting team have ideas for alternatives to test for each corridor, but we're intentionally not telling the public because we want to hear what they would like to see," said Silberman. "That's the point."
With two walls covered in detailed maps of the nine corridors, Silberman and county officials gave brief remarks before opening it up for questions and inviting attendees to take a first-hand look at the areas being studied.
The maps were detailed with traffic numbers and highlighted to show where back-ups occur most commonly. Silberman even asked attendees to write comments and notes on the maps with a sharpie marker.
The crowd included politicians, like County Council Chairman Dick Ladd (R-5th District), who asked a number of questions regarding the study's goals and methods. Ladd said he simply came out to learn.
"I wanted to learn about the study, and what they are doing and what they maybe aren't doing," he said. "I'm very interested in what they're doing about the Route 2 corridor and Route 50 and the (Bay) Bridge."
But the latter of those two topics won't make it into the study. The fact that such a important roadway isn't being included didn't sit well with the councilman.
"I think it's a potential choke point, and its approaching the end of its useful life," said Ladd. "The fact that they describe it as being out of the scope of their study . . . thats not a good place to have it in my opinion."
Gwen Azama, who lives in the Bay Ridge area, came to the meeting concerned that a different area didn't make the study—Forest Drive. But after speaking one-on-one with planning and zoning officials, she said she was happy with the night's outcome.
"He says they would get together with the city and do a separate study with the city, because if we were to be put in this big study, we'd get lost in the noise," Azama said. "That works for me."
However, everyone wasn't pleased with what transpired.
"I don't think it (the meeting) really answered all of our questions, they are predicting and projecting to 2037, which is quite a ways off," said Craig Offhaus. "But it doesn't solve the problem right now, which is that building across the county is out of control."
Offhaus said he'd like the county to look at comprehensive zoning, which will be before the county council this year, as a way to curb development. Additionally, he said he's worried the growth rate of the county is adversely affecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
"I think they need to also consider the impact on the Chesapeake Bay," said the Broadneck resident. "If you're adding more people, you're adding more pollution, and your impacting the bay with more homes."
And at a time when feasibility studies won't necessarily materialize into actual improvements, due to budget constraints, Offhaus said he'd like to see builders foot some more of the bill.
"We're stuck as taxpayers to pay for all the infrastructures that have to be built, improved, and expanded (due to more growth) and the contractors are going away with their millions and we're left holding the debt," said Offhaus.
While attendees seemed to have a wide range of concerns, county officials stressed that they want to hear from anyone who wishes to make their voice heard. In addition to attending meetings, county residents can submit comments at the study's website.
County Executive John R. Leopold also also be appointing a seven-member citizen advisory committee, which will keep up-to-date on findings and submit recommendations to the county executive.
To download an application to be on the seven-memer advisory committee, click here.