State set to rebuild parts of Main Street Meeting to hear details is tonight CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

January 25, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Residents and business owners on Westminster's East Main Street and Washington Road face 18 months of detours and road closings, the roar of jackhammers and the smell of blacktop as their road is rebuilt.

But the reward will be new water mains, better storm drainage, a rut-free road, new gas mains and a street lined with as many old trees as highway workers can save, plus some new trees.

A briefing is planned at 7 p.m. today at City Hall for the City Council and the public. Representatives of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., the State Highway Administration and the city's consulting engineer will describe how the road work will be phased, traffic control and detour plans.

The project to reconstruct East Main Street from Longwell Avenue to Washington Road and Washington Road to Quintal Drive is scheduled to start with replacement of gas mains by BG&E next month.

Street closings are not expected until summer, when paving work begins. "There will be times during the utility work that there may be some detour routing, but by and large, from February until summer, traffic will be able to flow," said Thomas B. Beyard, city director of planning and public works.

Neil Ridgely sees the project as a triumph of average citizens winning a response from the bureaucracy. Mr. Ridgely, county government program manager for landscaping and forest conservation, served on the task force that helped SHA officials redesign the project after local residents objected to an initial plan presented in late fall 1990.

"The state wanted to build [Route] 140 on Main Street," Mr. Ridgely said.

Initial plans called for the street to be designed to a uniform 40-foot width, which would have required taking out all trees and narrowing the sidewalks.

Mr. Ridgely credited Rebecca A. Orenstein, who later wa elected to the City Council, with spearheading the citizens' movement to save the trees. Ms. Orenstein formed a group called TreeAction and enlisted Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer, who agreed to the redesign with local residents' participation.

"I'm very proud of that project," Mr. Ridgely said. "It will be a little painful for the next year, but it's going to be good for the town."

He described a street that will be graced by more than 100 new trees from Washington Heights to Longwell Avenue. "We tried to get trees that flower, where possible," Mr. Ridgely said. The trees also had to be able to tolerate road salt, which ruled out many species. Among those chosen: zelkova, a large canopy tree on the grounds of the Westminster branch of Carroll County Public Library, and yellowwood, a tree with "a beautiful blossom and fragrance," he said.

Trees sparked the redesign, but the task force also worked with

SHA to design a streetscape that includes benches and brick-paved crosswalks for pedestrians. In the final design, the street is 36 feet wide, and the SHA anticipates being able to save 36 of the 42 trees there now.

The project was budgeted in 1987 at $2.8 million. Bob Fisher, SHA assistant district engineer for construction, said the estimate has been updated, but he declined to give the revised figure because bids are scheduled to be opened tomorrow. He would say only that the new figure is between $2.5 million and $5 million.

Federal money will cover 80 percent of the cost, state money 20 percent. The city government will not share in the road work cost, but will spend an estimated $750,000 to replace old water mains and install a storm drainage system that will channel water to a small stream at Center and Charles streets.

Mr. Fisher said the project is divided into phases, with sections of the road to be closed as construction work dictates. He said the required work varies too much to be able to estimate how long each block will be closed.

The SHA schedule calls for construction to be completed from

Longwell Avenue to Center Street by the end of November. Work will halt for the winter, with the rest of the project to be finished by Oct. 15, 1994.

The affected people have been developing plans for dealing with the street closings.

The Historical Society of Carroll County at 210 E. Main St. plans to use its rear access, said Curator Jay Graybeal.

Mr. Graybeal, a Westminster resident who served on the task force, said he thinks the revised project "keeps it more small town and pedestrian-friendly, which is what we were looking for."

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