Landscaping of 140: An idea starts to grow State funding to be sought

November 09, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll officials would like the Route 140 median strip in Westminster landscaped, but they said yesterday they want the State Highway Administration to pay for the plantings and maintenance.

The plantings, which would extend 1 1/2 miles from Route 97 to Route 31, would cost $100,000 to $125,000, said Neil Ridgely, program manager in the county's Division of Landscape and Forest Conservation.

Route 140 is one of the main routes into Carroll, and landscaping it would impress visitors, as well as help eliminate glare from headlights on the opposite side of the road, he said.

An SHA landscape architect drew up plans three years ago for planting trees and shrubs in the median, but the project was not funded because of the budget crisis, he told the commissioners during a staff meeting.

County officials said they will try to find out if money is available now. They will discuss it Monday when state Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer meets with the commissioners at the County Office Building.

Charlie Adams, director of the SHA Office of Environmental Design, said yesterday that money is not budgeted for the project.

"I'm aware the county is interested in it again," he said.

Mr. Adams said it was "premature to speculate" before Monday's meeting about whether the state would fund the project.

Carroll officials said they would like to amend the 3-year-old landscaping plan, possibly to include wildflowers, which do not require much maintenance.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he likes the idea of planting wildflowers. Mr. Lippy said he had received an inquiry from an outdoor advertising company executive who worried that trees could block billboards.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said that long-term maintenance should be an important issue in determining what is planted.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell did not attend the meeting.

Under the old state landscape plan, the state would have paid for the plantings, but the county would have paid to care for them. The plan said the state would continue to mow around the plantings.

Mr. Ridgely estimated that fertilizing and pruning and applying pesticides and herbicides would cost $8,500 to $10,000 a year if the county hired a company to do the work.

If county employees did the work, the supplies and labor would cost $24,000 a year, said G. Michael Whitson, chief of the Bureau of Land Management.

The bureau has 22 full-time employees and is responsible for maintaining county properties and parks. It could be a burden and safety hazard for county employees to care for the plantings, he said.

Employees could be in danger working near the heavily traveled Route 140, and they don't have time for the extra work, Mr. Whitson said.

He also said cars and trucks often drive into the median, which could ruin the plantings.

Routes 30 and 26 also are main routes into the county, and it's possible officials would want to landscape them, too, Mr. Whitson said.

"Are we going to set a precedent here?" he asked.

Mr. Ridgely acknowledged that he would like to landscape those two routes.

The state landscape plan for Route 140 calls for planting golden rain trees, which have a yellow flower in summer and grow to 30 feet; winter honeysuckle shrubs, which can grow to 8 feet; and doublefile viburnum shrubs, which have white flowers in the spring and red berries in the fall and grow as high as 10 feet.

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