MANCHESTER — The easiest solution, it seems, is to turn back the clock.
Back to a time when this town's Main Street -- and the other 28 miles of what is known as the Hanover Pike -- was visited only by an occasional automobile and the loudest sound along the road was the chirping of birds or the laughter of children.
"I'm a lifelong resident of Route 30," said Delegate Richard C. Matthews, D-Carroll, who lives in Hampstead. "I can remember a Main Street that was individual homes and families, and I want to return theroad to a place where we can live. Let's not destroy what we want."
As the Hanover Pike Task Force conducted its the first meeting Thursday in the gymnasium of Manchester Elementary School, more than 30 officials from Carroll and Baltimore counties and Adams and York counties in Pennsylvania told each other of the need to improve the 30-mile route that stretches from Reisterstown to north of Hanover.
Thetask force is believed to be the first time officials from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line have tackled a problem highway together. Its goal is to find ways around the traffic congestion and safety hazards of one of northern Maryland's busiest commuter highways.
"Each of us has to come to an understanding of how all of us deal with the issues about this road," said Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman, Carroll's planning director. "By doing nothing, we just put off indefinitely a problem that could be terrible for the next generation."
Even before the next generation learns to drive, Hanover Pike -- known as Route 94 in Pennsylvania -- will become even more crowded. Its average trafficvolume of more than 14,000 cars a day exceeds what planners had predicted for the turn of the century. By then, they now say, volume could exceed 20,000 cars a day.
"Growth can strangle us," said Pennsylvania Representative Steven R. Nickol, R-193rd. "If we wait, the solutions will be harder in the future."
The task force did not schedule its next meeting, nor did it impose a deadline for coming up with those solutions.
But the three-hour forum gave some politicians, including County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy, a chance to plug their pet solutions to the problems facing Hanover Pike.
Dell repeated his desire to see Interstate 795 extended to the Pennsylvania border. To pay for the roadway -- estimated to cost more than $2 million a mile just to build -- Dell would look toward the federal government or a system of tolls.
"It is a long-term solution,not a short-term one," he said. "It will eliminate a lot of traffic flow on Route 30, and it would take interstate traffic all the way through Carroll County. It will be a real answer."
Lippy, a former mayor here, pushed the idea of extending Baltimore's Metro rail lines to Westminster.
"The gridlock that exists has an almost irrevocable effect on our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness," he said. "I would ask that we not snicker at the thought of light rail."
The roadway is an Indian passageway that has gone virtually unchanged -- save for paving -- in the last three centuries.
"I think we've taken a lot from this corridor," Cueman said. "It's time we begin to put something back into it."
The task force hopes to produce a master plan for the four-county, two-state corridor by the time it finishes its work next year.
"A lot of our work is already done," said Robin W. Yingling, a transportation planner with Carroll County. "All we need to do is compile it."
Most jurisdictions -- including Carroll, Baltimore and York counties -- have completed master plans for areas near the Hanover Pike. Adams County will complete one in thenear future.