An alternative location was presented to the Maryland Transit Administration at a public meeting Wednesday night for a commuter parking lot in northern St. Mary’s.
The state is designing a park and ride lot in New Market at the intersection of Route 5 and New Market Turner Road, behind the Charlotte Hall trash and recycling convenience center and near Dent Elementary School.
However, Charlotte Hall developer John K. Parlett suggested another location in a field in Mechanicsville that he said would work better. Several others agreed.
“Anything is better than what they have come up with,” said Del. John F. Wood Jr. (D-St. Mary’s, Charles) of the location the state is designing at New Market.
The park and ride lot is designed to provide 500 spaces, making for at least 1,000 commuter trips in and out of it, plus the buses that take commuters north.
Parlett said there are already 3,200 vehicles a day using the Route 5 and Route 6 intersection. Adding another 1,000 trips is a 30 percent increase. “For lots of reasons, we are opposed to that,” he said.
Parlett suggested the state look at a field off northbound Route 5 across from a new traffic signal at Mechanicsville Road and Route 5. The 44-acre property is owned by Dennis Allan Burch, according to state land records.
“I don’t have any representation whatsoever,” Parlett said. “I’m just looking at a viable site.”
There are 29,000 vehicles a day passing the intersection of Mechanicsville Road and Route 5, he said. Adding 1,000 more trips there would only be a 3 percent increase.
And commuters could access the proposed location right off of Route 5. Those coming from the Country Lakes neighborhood would drive down Mechanicsville Road, through the intersection at Route 5 and right into the parking lot, he said.
At the New Market location, commuters would access the lot from Route 6, which would have to be widened at considerable cost. That lot can’t directly access Route 5 because there are wetlands in between.
The Route 5 and Route 6 intersection would have to be upgraded as well. “Think about the disruption for everyone for a year at that intersection” during construction, Parlett said.
“That is not the ideal spot for that,” Wood said.
“That New Market is a bad intersection today and this would only make it worse,” said F. Elliott “Sonny” Burch Jr., whose family owns several properties in the Charlotte Hall area. “It’s not a good location.”
The state is building a park and ride lot for Charlotte Hall on 11 acres it bought from Burch for $1.5 million.
Sonny Burch is a cousin to Dennis Burch, the owner of the field in Mechanicsville for the proposed park and ride lot. Dennis Burch could not be reached Thursday and Sonny Burch said he hasn’t been able to reach Dennis Burch either.
The Maryland Transit Administration said 65 percent of the commuters for the New Market park and ride lot would come from the south. “If 65 percent of the traffic comes from the south, why not move the lot south?” Parlett said.
Buying some land from the Mechanicsville property would be cheaper than the road improvements proposed at New Market, he said.
The St. Mary’s County Planning Commission already turned down the New Market park and ride lot in 2007 because of its concerns of the traffic impact.
Wood said he intends to set up a meeting between the Maryland Transit Administration and Southern Maryland lawmakers to discuss the alternate location.
The St. Mary’s County commissioners were recently briefed on the New Market location and they noted no objections to the site.
“The state and county have not heard the last of this,” Parlett said.
The New Market park and ride project is still under preliminary design, which isn’t finished.
“We value the input of all community members,” Terry Owens, spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Administration, said in an email Thursday. “That’s why meetings like the one we had last night are so important. The public comment period will last for another two weeks. After that we’ll review all that we heard. If some additional evaluation of ideas is necessary we’ll do that, and respond where appropriate.
“The bottom line is we want a transparent process that allows us to serve the best needs of our passengers while at the same time being good neighbors in the communities where we operate,” Owens said.