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Cross County Connector

Charles County’s proposed Cross County Connector--permits denied.

The denial of wetland-destruction permits for this ill-conceived highway by the Maryland Department of Environment  (MDE) in 2011, and by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2012, represents a success story for the Mattawoman Watershed Society and its many allies. It also is a success for Mattawoman Creek, as the highway was planned to bisect nearly the entire watershed, and would have opened especially sensitive forested areas to massive sprawl development.

Even though the Army Corps ruled that the highway proposal was "contrary to the public interest," powerful financial interests continue to agitate for it. For example, a 2015 Charles County Land-Use Study for the area around the Maryland Airport in Bryans road--a study prompted by land speculators--boosts the CCC. And the huge Guilford subdivision proposed for Bryans Road in 2015 is leftover from the CCC and would increase traffic on Billingsley Road by 60%!

Yet there is good news for Mattawoman and citizens. An "action" item in the transportation chapter of the 2016 draft comprehensive plan recommends that the CCC right-of-way be used for a hiker-biker trial! This could connect via Bensville Road with the Indian Head Rail Trail. Might Charles County become a center for bicycling like it is for bass fishing?

Why the Cross County Connector extension across the Mattawoman watershed was such a bad idea.

The pollution running from the urbanization that would follow such a highway, and the loss of water-filtering forest, would have damaged Mattawoman beyond repair. This fact catalyzed over twenty local and statewide civic, environmental, and outdoors groups to join MWS in forming the Smarter Growth Alliance for Charles County (SGACC). Our extensive analysis prompted permitting agencies to take a hard look. Just one example is a report called Trouble Ahead.  In 2011, MDE denied wetland destruction permits, followed in 2012 by the Army Corps as being “contrary to the public interest.” The Corps noted an existing alternative served to carry traffic across the county.

The proposal for this county highway—to be paid for solely by county taxpayers—was a symptom of the larger disease of a land-use plan that promotes overdevelopment in the Mattawoman Watershed. See the issues of Land-use and the Comprehensive Plan.

 Highways are promoted by developers and land speculators to open land for development. In fact, this highway was once called the “Western Connector,” and was intended to facilitate the Chapman’s Landing development, owned by the same developers who are erecting “Southbridge” on the Potomac in Virginia. As the name Southbridge implies, the speculators were banking on a new bridge over the Potomac River, part of the Outer Beltway, that would link their development to massive growth in Charles County. Fortunately, Chapman’s Landing was defeated when the Campaign to Save Chapman Forest—of which the predecessor to MWS was a founding member—convinced then-governor Parris Glendening, along with the private Conservation Fund,  to purchase the forest. It is now Chapman State Park.

 The Outer Beltway, or more precisely the Eastern Washington Bypass, lives on as a threat to Mattawoman. The Nice Bridge that carries U.S. Route 301 over the Potomac is slated for a larger replacement without any regard for the increased traffic that will worsen congestion in Waldorf. This jam will create cries for a Western Waldorf Bypass in a domino effect called segmentation, that is supposedly banned by the National Environment Policy Act. This highway proposal was one of the original options for the Eastern Washington Bypass and would be extremely damaging to Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts. It would devastate Mattawoman, impact the Port Tobacco River, and instigate development in the Nanjemoy watershed.

Proposed path of the Cross County Connector would have leveled forest, and opened thousands of acres of forested land to development.

The intersection pictured in the aerial photo above. The view is toward dualized Billingsley Road, which was widened as the "Cross County Connector" phases 1-4. The photo is taken from Middletown Road, which runs left-right in the picture. Middletown Road to the left is the alternative recommended by the Army Corps.