It seems that a meeting between Carroll's elected officials and Maryland's transportation secretary has moved the Manchester-Hampstead bypass off the state's back burner.
It's about time. Traffic congestion on Route 30 in these two northwestern Carroll towns has reached intolerable levels for area motorists as well as for the residents of Hampstead and Manchester. It can take as long as 15 minutes to pass through each of these towns during morning and evening rush hours, and town residents cross the street or turn left against oncoming traffic with great trepidation.
Because of a decades-old disagreement among local officials over the alignment of the Manchester bypass, state highway officials long ago relegated this project to the bottom of its road design and construction list. With Manchester's elected officials and the county commissioners finally agreeing to the road alignment outlined in the town's master plan, the impasse appears to be resolved.
The impetus for the agreement may have come from the commissioners. They have come to realize that the congested ** condition of Route 30 is hurting industrial development in the county's northwest corner. At least one potential industrial developer interested in building in the Hampstead area backed off once he examined Route 30's traffic problems. The county, which is obtaining 400 acres of industrial-zoned property from Carroll County General Hospital, is afraid the development potential of its own parcel will suffer because of the inadequacies of Route 30.
Despite the agreement on the bypass alignment, however, a large hurdle remains -- money. Maryland Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer told Carroll officials that construction of the Hampstead bypass, which will cost an estimated $35 million, will not begin until the General Assembly raises the state's gasoline levy, which might not happen until 1995 or later. The Manchester bypass will take even longer because money for its design has yet to be appropriated. It might be another seven to 10 years before the bypass is built.
Even though motorists may have to wait until the next century to use the Hampstead and Manchester bypasses, at least there seems to be movement to remedy this problem, which isn't going to go away by itself.