ANNAPOLIS – A stretch of highway in Wicomico County that has stirred local controversy for two years is now in the hands of state legislators.
Maryland Route 349, which runs for 25 miles from Salisbury west to the Nanticoke River, is officially named Nanticoke Road, but residents near Quantico say the road’s name should reflect its history and the original name, Quantico Road.
Del. Don Hughes, R-Wicomico, has proposed a compromise. He introduced a bill, heard Friday by the Commerce and Government Matters Committee, that would change the name of a five-mile stretch of the road, between Route 50 and Jones Creek, to Quantico-Nanticoke Road.
While Quantico Road supporters accept the compromise, opponents say the change would confuse emergency officials and put an unnecessary economic burden on the county and its residents.
“There should be no compromise when safety and economic issues are so important,” Mary Ellen Holloway said.
Residents identified as the One Road One Name Committee, say naming the road Quantico would cause confusion for emergency personnel, given the vicinity of another Quantico Road and Quantico Creek Road.
Supporters of Quantico Road argue that the road’s name is not important to emergency personnel, because they identify the highway by its state route number.
They also say the Nanticoke crowd is out to steal their heritage. “One community ought not to rob another community of its history,” Kathleen Fox said.
Hamilton Fox, a 40-year resident of Quantico Road, led the support for the compromise. He said that while the road was officially named Salisbury-Nanticoke Road when the highway was built in 1947, it has been known as Quantico Road for 200 years.
Fox said the road has been called Quantico since it was built connecting Quantico and Salisbury in the 1600s. “Quantico was an important settlement in stagecoach times. There was no Nanticoke then,” he said.
He points out that even in the 1960s there were no Nanticoke Road addresses listed in the phone book, and now there are few.
A 911 committee charged with simplifying road names shortened Salisbury-Nanticoke to Nanticoke in 1993.
This change, and the notification of residents who identified their addresses as Quantico Road, started the debate.
Quantico supporters first tried to strike a deal with the county council. They wanted the two portions of the highway to be named separately, one Quantico Road, one Nanticoke Road.
Emergency officials vetoed the proposal, saying it would confuse their drivers.
The county council recently revisited the issue, and heard more than two hours of debate at their February 2 meeting. The council voted 4-3 to keep the name Nanticoke, but Hughes’ bill would go over county authority and decide the issue by state law.
Philip Tilghman, president of the Wicomico County Council, said he thinks the bill is a mistake and would make both sides equally unhappy. “There is no right or wrong here. The legislation would continue to leave the road in a gray area,” he said.
Tilghman also opposed the bill because of the expense of changing road signs. “I hope the bill gets an unfavorable report, so the issue can finally be put to rest,” he said. -30-