This 2005 photo shows the westbound Patuxent Freeway (MD 32) at EXIT 4 (MD 170 / Telegraph Road) in Odenton. Exit numbers were added to MD 32 in 2006. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
A DIRECT LINK BETWEEN I-70 AND THE STATE CAPITAL: As early as the 1950's, the Maryland State Roads Commission (SRC) advocated construction of a freeway connecting I-70 / UD 40 (Baltimore National Pike) in West Friendship with Fort Meade and Annapolis. This road, which soon became known as the Patuxent Freeway, was given the MD 32 designation, and as a state highway was to be financed under a 50-50 formula between the Federal and state governments.
Between 1957 and 1960, the SRC built a nine-mile-long extension of Sykesville Road as a partially controlled-access MD 32 with the intention of upgrading this section in the distant future once the rural area through which it passed became more developed. This section of MD 32 was built with a single carriageway and accommodates only one lane in each direction; there also are several signalized intersections. The MD 32 designation then continued along Guilford Road to the main entrance to Fort Meade.
Work stalled on the Patuxent Freeway as the state moved aggressively to complete its Interstate highway network. In the late 1960's, the SRC developed the Major Thoroughfare Plan, which provided a blueprint for supplemental freeways not in the Interstate network. The state estimated it would cost $73 million to build the entire length of the Patuxtent Freeway from I-70 to a point southeast of the John Hanson Highway (I-595 / US 50 / US 301) in Annapolis. This included the seven miles that eventually were incorporated into I-97 and three miles that today are part of Aris T. Allen Boulevard (MD 665).
Construction of the Patuxent Freeway took place over the course of nearly four decades:
1968-1971: A short section of freeway opened in the vicinity of EXIT 13 (I-95); this section stretched only from an at-grade intersection with Guilford Road (now grade-separated) southeast to a turnaround just south of the Vollmerhausen Road overpass.
1979-1981: Guilford Road west to EXIT 16 (US 29 / Columbia Pike); this section actually continued northwest of US 29, but lost the median and became a four-lane undivided arterial before rejoining Guilford Road west of Cedar Lane (now EXIT 17).
1982-1984: EXIT 11 (Dorsey Run Road) west to EXIT 13 (I-95); the turnaround loop near Vollmerhausen Road was closed. C/D roads were built for EXIT 12 (US 1 / Baltimore-Washington Boulevard). This section actually continued southeast of Dorsey Run Road toward Fort Meade as a four-lane undivided arterial; the MD 32 arterial ended at a T-intersection with MD 198 (Laurel-Fort Meade Road).
1987-1991: EXIT 1 (I-97 / MD 3) west to milepost 7 (on Fort Meade grounds). This construction was done concurrently with that of the "Patuxent" section of I-97 (between I-595 / US 50 / US 301) and MD 3 / MD 32.
1993-1996: EXIT 16 (US 29 / Columbia Pike) west to EXIT 20 (MD 108 / Clarksville Pike); this comprised an upgrade of the existing MD 32 four-lane arterial as well as Guilford Road.
1995-1997: EXIT 10 (MD 295 / Baltimore-Washington Parkway) to EXIT 11 (Dorsey Run Road); this comprised an upgrade of the existing MD 32 four-lane arterial and new EXIT 10C ramps along westbound MD 32 for Guilford Road (MD 732).
2001-2005: The "Fort Meade" section from milepost 7 west to EXIT 10 (MD 295) was an upgrade from an existing four-lane arterial; it included new interchanges at EXIT 8 (MD 198) and EXIT 9 (Canine Road / Fort Meade) and upgraded ramps at EXIT 10. Unlike the remaining sections of MD 32, this section on the grounds of Fort Meade is under the jurisdiction of the US Government and required close cooperation with Federal officials regarding the location of exit ramps, particularly EXIT 9 (which provides direct access to Fort Meade and is open to employees only). The last traffic signal on this section was removed in the fall of 2004, and the ramps were completed the following spring. This section cost $24 million to complete.
Most of the 22.5 miles of the existing freeway accommodates four travel lanes (two in each direction); however, there are six travel lanes between EXIT 13 (I-95) and EXIT 16 (US 29) in Columbia. There is a wide variable grassy median averaging 54 feet in width to accommodate an additional travel lane in each direction in the future; this median widens at EXIT 13 for the left-hand exit ramps to I-95, and between EXIT 14 (Broken Land Parkway) and EXIT 15 (Eden Brook Drive) for a future quad-carriageway setup (in which new through-travel lanes would be in the current median while the existing roadways would become C/D roads). The one exception is the Fort Meade section where the two carriageways are separated only by a concrete "Jersey" barrier.
According to the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), the Patuxent Freeway carries approximately 70,000 vehicles per day (AADT) from I-97 west to MD 295 and as much as 100,000 per day from MD 295 west to US 29. Traffic volumes fall off significantly west of US 29 to roughly 40,000 vehicles per day near MD 108.
CHANGES FOR AN INTERCHANGE: In June 2008, the SHA announced plans to rebuild EXIT 8 (MD 198 / Laurel-Fort Meade Road) in anticipation of the proposed widening of MD 198 to four lanes (from two) to serve Fort Meade. The SHA offered five alternatives, which would entail either modifying or eliminating the two existing roundabouts abutting the MD 198 overpass (which would be widened) altogether:
ALTERNATIVE A: Traffic from westbound MD 32 would use a new flyover ramp to connect directly to westbound MD 198. All other ramp traffic would use the existing roundabouts.
ALTERNATIVE B: A new ramp would be built to take traffic from westbound MD 32 directly into Fort Meade, while the existing EXIT 8 ramp would be configured, replacing the northern roundabout with a traditional signaled intersection. The southern roundabout would remain.
ALTERNATIVE C: Both roundabouts would be replaced with traditional signaled intersections.
ALTERNATIVE D: A new overpass would be built to take traffic from MD 198 directly into Fort Meade, bypassing the ramps and roundabouts altogether. Motorists traveling between MD 32 and MD 198 still would use the roundabouts.
ALTERNATIVE E: This is the same as alternative D except that the roundabouts would be replaced with signaled intersections.
Construction of the MD 198 widening and interchange project is expected to cost as much as $185 million; it is scheduled to begin in 2011.
This 2004 photo shows the westbound Patuxent Freeway (MD 32) at EXIT 8 (MD 198 / Laurel-Fort Meade Road) in Fort Meade. Work on this section of MD 32 -- including utility relocation -- was completed one year later. The SHA plans a massive reconstruction of this interchange in conjunction with the widening of MD 198 beginning in 2011. (Photo by Alex Nitzman, aaroads.com.)
AFTER DECADES OF DELAY, SOME ACTION: Even as traffic on MD 32 through Howard County had grown seven-fold between 1980 and 2003, and even though the state had set aside right-of-way for an eventual expansion, state officials maintained a hands-off approach to converting MD 32 into a freeway based on "smart growth" initiatives espoused by Governor Parris Glendening in the 1990's.
In 2004, Governor Robert Ehrlich, acting on his mandate to relieve congestion on the state's highways, advanced plans to build the remaining nine miles of the Patuxent Freeway, which was estimated to cost $200 million to complete. New interchanges are planned at the following locations:
EXIT 24: Linden Church Road (Clarksville); standard diamond interchange with grade separation for Linden Church Road
Maryland SHA / Howard County maintenance facilities: T-intersection for westbound lanes; diamond ramps for eastbound lanes and grade separation for official vehicles only
EXIT 27: Burntwoods Road (Glenelg); interchange with diamond ramps serving an extended Burntwoods Road / Ivory Lane East from westbound lanes; and slip ramps serving an extended Pfefferkorn Road / Ten Oaks Road from eastbound lanes
EXIT 29: Rosemary Lane (West Friendship); new service roads to be built between Parliament Place and Rosemary Lane for slip ramps connecting to the freeway
EXIT 30: MD 144 / Frederick Road (West Friendship): partial cloverleaf interchange; eastbound "parclo" ramps also will connect to Nixons Farm Lane
EXIT 31: I-70 / US 40: modified cloverleaf interchange; but some movements (I-70 eastbound to MD 32 westbound, and I-70 westbound to MD 32 eastbound) will be governed by traffic lights
The SHA and the Federal Highway Administration reached a final record of decision in 2005, with minor adjustments from the existing right-of-way to mitigate the environmental impact. The four-lane freeway would be built with a 34-foot-wide grassy median - compared with a median as wide as 54 feet on earlier sections - to reduce the footprint.
Work began on building the most complex interchange - EXIT 27 - in July 2007, with completion scheduled for October 2009. No other sections currently are scheduled for construction. Upon completion, the freeway is expected to carry approximately 50,000 vehicles per day.
AN INTERSTATE CONNECTION FROM I-70 TO ANNAPOLIS: Upon final completion, the entire length of the Patuxent Freeway from John Hanson Highway (I-595 / US 50 / US 301) northwest to I-70 should be re-designated I-297. The existing "southeast leg" of I-97 would shift west to the existing MD 3 / US 301 alignment for an extended I-97 toward Virginia.
SOURCES: "20-Year Highway Needs Study," Maryland State Roads Commission (1968); "State Primary Highway System," Maryland Department of Transportation (1972); "MD 32 (Patuxent Freeway), Anne Arundel and Howard Counties: Environmental Impact Statement," Federal Highway Administration and Maryland Department of Transportation (1977); "MD 32 (Patuxent Freeway) Construction from MD 32 to MD 3: Environmental Impact Statement," Federal Highway Administration and Maryland Department of Transportation (1983); "Dr. Gridlock" by Ron Shaffer, The Washington Post (5/30/2002); "State Is Planning To Widen 9-Mile Stretch of Route 32," The Baltimore Sun (7/13/2004); Maryland Route 32: A Policy Analysis, University of Maryland-Baltimore County (2004); "New Ramps To Open at the MD 32 / Canine Road Interchange in Anne Arundel County," Maryland State Highway Administration (1/14/2005); "MD 32 (Patuxent Freeway) Construction from MD 108 to I-70: Final Environmental Impact Statement," Federal Highway Administration and Maryland Department of Transportation (2005); "New Routes 198 and 32 Interchange Being Considered" by Joshua Stewart, The Annapolis Capital (6/25/2008); Scott Kozel; Mike Pruett; Alexander Svirsky.
MD 32 shield by Barry L. Camp. I-297 shield by Scott Colbert. Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.