Shocking Growth

by Alan J. Claffie

Where we are now is a bustling town called Waldorf, in Charles County, Maryland. Mention "Charles County" to people in other areas and they chuckle, thinking that it's a rural community with tobacco farms and precious little else dotting the sparse landscape.

That's changed. Nowadays it's strip mall-a-rama offering chain stores and restaurants to those who use the town as home sweet home while working in Washington, D.C. or other metropoliseseses.

Since moving here in 2002 one thing's readily apparent: a lot of other people are doing the same thing. On my five-mile drive to work there are three large-scale housing developments that, plain and simple, didn't exist before:

We're not sure when the accompanying Google Earth image was taken but since it was, there have been three major developments and one minor one. Number 1 was pretty well under way at the time, 2 was an extension of the first, the third supposedly contains 50 houses, and the 4th is under construction now (three "estate-size" lots... right by that busy intersection, just think how hard it's gonna be to get out of those driveways).

Assuming #3 really was fifty houses, then #2 was a bit less and #1 a bit more. So we'll say that in the matter of a handful of years, a hundred houses showed up just on one stretch of road. Now multiply that by four or five similar developments that went on at other parts of town and you've got a city that, unlike Utica, is on the grow.

Put yourself in the shoes of the town planner. You've got a hundred houses going up every year and some of those houses will have school kids... gotta put up more schools. Gotta get the kids to school, so you gotta create new bus routes. This means more buses (busses?), more bus drivers, and that's just dealing with schools.

Then there's the matter of dealing with sewer, police coverage, fire coverage, and traffic.

That last one is a biggie around here. The main drag through town is Route 301 and it's not a little road. Three straight lanes in each direction along with right and left turn lanes, theoretically it should be more than adequate. But it isn't at times, and now they think they're going to fix it. A study is afoot to see what can be done about it.

From what I can tell, it's beyond fixing. Already got as many lanes as is practical, no run-off area, too many traffic lights and driveways (and this is before the new town center goes where the Stardust(?) was) and U-turns so there's always slowing down and stopping and speeding up and let's not forget the frequent games of chicken.

Ever try to cross it on foot? You're taking your life into your own hands.

There's two ways to fix it and they're both way too drastic to actually happen: either build bridges over major intersections with on- and off-ramps like 5 does as it approaches the Beltway, or bypass the whole farkin thing like they're doing in Hughesville.

One's too drastic to attempt, and the other's stopped before it's started because of the amazing amount of real estate required to map a route that won't go too far out of the way. So this'll be another study that'll probably peter our when the money goes away and nothing's going to happen when all is said and done.

Well, maybe next year.

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