With unanimous council backing, Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, last week introduced two resolutions asking the state to stop planning for a new road to connect routes 32 and 97.
After attending a meeting last week with more than 300 angry western county residents, Feaga late Friday filed an amendment to the 1990 General Plan that would delete a reference to a State Highway Administration study of a four-lane connector road linking the two roads.
The resolution would erase from the general plan the county's 20-year blueprint for growth, a reference that directs the county to "continue to participate in the assessment of roadway studies" including the Route 97/Route 32 Corridor Study.
The proposed connector would use the Pfefferkorn Road right of way from Route 32 and follow one of three routes to Route 97, state maps show. One would intersect with Route 97 just south of Route 144, while the other two would go north across the Carroll County border before reaching Route 97.
But Jeffrey B. Wingfield, a project engineer with the SHA's Project Planning Division, said, "We've just started the study and there's no set alignments. We've drawn lines on paper just to show what options we were studying."
Wingfield said highway planners have no project cost estimates and have not determined road length yet.
The second resolution, filed by Feaga and Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd District, asks the State Highway Administration to drop connector plans in favor of considering other alternatives, such as upgrading Route 32 and Interstate 70 between routes 32 and 97.
The two resolutions will be formally introduced during the council's legislative session next Monday. A vote is scheduled for Oct. 29.
"Right now we've got the support of our elected officials because they know . . . we're determined; we've got the support of the people," said Tom Horwath, a member of the newly formed Western Howard County Preservation Association.
Horwath helped organize last Thursday's meeting in Glenwood that inspired the resolutions. About 350 people signed up to join the group that night, he said.
"Carroll County's pushing this connector road to alleviate traffic on Route 26," Horwath said, "But Howard County's given up enough farmland to alleviate traffic in Carroll County."
Carroll planners have lobbied SHA officials to create a better route from Westminster to Washington to encourage economic growth.
"Anything that would improve access into Howard County south of the Carroll County line would be a project that Carroll County would actively support," said Robert A. "Max" Bair, executive to the Carroll County Commissioners.
Considering Howard County officials' opposition to a connector, Bair said, "a connector doesn't have to happen if there are significant improvements to both 97 and 32 to handle traffic."
Farms under the Howard County preservation program and planned and existing developments are "squarely in the path" of the state's proposed connector, said county Planning and Zoning Director Uri Avin.
County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo sent SHA officials a letter in 1988 "saying, essentially, 'go ahead and study this, but we think there are some deep problems with it,' " Avin said.
The only acceptable solution to accommodating traffic between Carroll and Howard counties would be upgrading existing roads, Avin said.
Wingfield said one option being studied is to upgrade Route 32 from Route 108 to I-70 and Route 97 from I-70 to Route 26 north of Berrett in Carroll County.
A connector road would be eight years away, should SHA decide to build it. That estimate includes three years for the study, which started in July, he said.
Feaga will meet with residents and SHA officials to discuss the connector study at the Lisbon Fire Hall at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3.
Opposition to the connector is nothing new to Howard County politics.
Gray said Monday that the county had opposed the connector since 1971.
But during Feaga's tooth-and-nail primary battle with John W. Taylor, former president of Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, the challenger's campaign literature accused Feaga of supporting the connector.
Feaga partly blames the charge for his narrow 240-vote victory over Taylor in the primary election.
"The public was misinformed about the amendment. They were told that the amendment put a road in the General Plan."