Shoulders of Route 32 in Sykesville may be reconstructed, lanes added

December 14, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

The State Highway Administration (SHA) may reconstruct the shoulders of Route 32 in Sykesville next spring. The project would provide additional lanes for through traffic on the state highway, which intersects town roads at four points.

The improvement would run from Route 851, south of the Patapsco River, to the proposed Obrecht Road extension that the county has scheduled for construction in late 1994. That new road would become the fifth intersection along Route 32 in the town.

In a letter to Sykesville last month, O. James Lighthizer, state secretary of transportation, said that the improvements "will likely be done as a minor project and will be developed at the SHA office in Frederick."

Sykesville Mayor Kenneth W. Clark said he was "really pleased and excited that the state understood our need and has a sense of urgency about this project."

Northbound vehicles turning left into town from the single-lane highway pose a safety hazard and force through traffic onto gravel shoulders, Mr. Clark said.

"Traffic is moving at speed [50 mph] and frequently comes upon turning vehicles," the mayor said.

Route 32 serves as the main egress for hundreds of town residents whose daily commute takes them north to Route 26 or south to Route 70.

Of the four town intersections along the route, only one -- Sandosky Road -- is controlled by a traffic light. Wide bends in the road also limit sight distance.

"Basically, for about the last 20 years, Route 32 has been a bypass for Sykesville," said Douglas Rose, SHA district engineer.

Mr. Rose said the agency would not be widening the road "but making use of existing shoulders to provide free-flow movements."

"We would do the improvement continually through the area heading north," he said.

"No improvements would be needed for southbound traffic, which has the opportunity to make right turns."

Nearly two years ago, Sykesville officials organized a transportation conference and invited SHA representatives. The session led to a state-conducted traffic survey.

"We had discussed whether there was a need for a dual highway on this bypass, but traffic volume didn't warrant dualization," Mr. Rose said.

The SHA plans a routine resurfacing of the highway next summer from the Howard County line north to Route 26, Mr. Rose said.

"We could incorporate the shoulder work at the same time, if we have the funds," he said. "By the end of 1994, we could have both the shoulder and the main line resurfaced."

State crews would have to "beef up the shoulders," which are not as strong as the main road, he said.

The plan is conceptual and the state has not committed funding, he said.

"We would like to mesh these projects," he said. "We don't want to have to finish the resurfacing and come back again to do the shoulder work."

Mr. Rose expects cost estimates on both projects early next year.

The mayor said the town endorses the planned improvements, which he called "keys to safety" for residents.

Town Manager James L. Schumacher has asked the town engineer, Bob Bond, to prepare a summary report detailing the improvements and cost estimates. Mr. Bond said the improvements will "bring the road up to the more acceptable current standards."

Mr. Schumacher said he is eager to help with the project, which he expects will win state funding.

"The SHA has approved the town's schedule for Route 32 and it sounds promising," he said.

Sykesville officials are asking the state for one exception. They want to discourage motorists from using the Cooper Drive intersection.

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