Local roads that flunk state test

April 10, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

The intersection where Pamela Jean Darby was fatally injured in a car crash last week is one of six in Carroll County -- five of them on Route 140 -- that fail to meet minimum State Highway Administration standards for traffic movement.

In a draft county Planning Department study released last week, which rated roads and intersections according to highway administration standards, a failing grade also went to the 3/8 mile of Route 97 from Old Westminster Pike to Route 140 in Westminster.

Roads and intersections that flunk standards are "more or less like gridlock," said state traffic engineer George R. Miller. A low rating reflects very high volumes of traffic, low speeds, not enough lanes to handle the traffic flow and not much freedom to maneuver, he said.

The stretch of Route 97 falls short because of heavy traffic and delays at traffic signals, county transportation planner Steven C. Horn said.

Substandard roads and intersections can be inconvenient and unsafe.

Mrs. Darby suffered fatal injuries when the car she was driving crashed into the back of a pickup truck that had stopped for a red light Wednesday afternoon on Route 140 at Sandymount Road.

The hazard at Route 140 and Sandymount Road "you could see yesterday," Mr. Horn said. Cars travel at high speed toward an at-grade intersection.

The trouble spots cited in the study:

* Route 97 from Old Westminster Pike to Route 140 in Westminster -- delays at traffic signals.

* Routes 30 at 482 in Hampstead -- traffic crossing 482 backs up behind cars making left turns.

* Routes 140 at 91 in Finksburg -- volume, and conflicting traffic movements as westbound cars turn left from 140 onto 91.

* Route 140 at Center Street in Westminster -- volume, conflicting traffic movements.

* Route 140 at Sandymount Road -- at-grade intersection, cars traveling at high speeds on 140.

* Route 140 at Gorsuch Road in Westminster -- volume, delays in crossing or entering 140 caused by lane design problems.

* Route 140 at Old Westminster Pike in Finksburg -- volume, speed of 140 traffic.

County and state governments have no current plans to improve the F-rated crossings, although the State Highway Administration is considering one project to improve Route 140 in a congested area of Westminster. County officials say they will use the study for planning purposes.

Westminster city government opened bids last week to widen the Center Street intersection from 34 to 54 feet and add a right-turn lane for northbound traffic on Center Street at Route 140, one of the substandard intersections.

"The biggest area of backup is traffic coming out of town [north on Center]. Sometimes it backs up to Court Street," said Thomas B. Beyard, city public works director. He said the project should be completed this summer.

Mr. Beyard said the project may help ease another congestion problem that Mr. Horn identified: Southbound traffic entering Center Street from Route 140 and from shopping centers opposite the intersection has to merge into one lane.

Route 30 at Route 482 in Hampstead, the only intersection not on Route 140 to earn a failing grade, does not have enough lanes, Mr. Horn said. Drivers wanting to cross Route 30 are forced to wait behind drivers turning left.

The long-planned Route 30 bypass would relieve congestion at that intersection and on Main Street in Hampstead. County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy expressed surprise last week that Route 30 through Hampstead received a near-capacity "E" rather than an "F" rating.

Carroll Del. Richard N. Dixon, who has been working to get the bypass funded, said he is optimistic about a new alignment proposal that emerged from a study by staffs of the highway administration, county and town of Manchester.

That proposal deals with a combined Hampstead-Manchester bypass instead of two bypasses, one around each town. "We've made a significant amount of progress in a very short time," Mr. Dixon said.

The proposed alignment and a state highway study on how many Route 30 drivers would use a bypass are scheduled for discussion at a May meeting of local and state officials.

The highway administration has no plans for improvement of the F-rated section of Route 97 or the intersection of routes 140 and 91 in Finksburg, Mr. Miller said.

He said Route 140 is scheduled for resurfacing from the Baltimore County line to Route 91 and then from Route 91 west to near Suffolk Road this year.

Around Westminster, Mr. Miller said the highway agency is "looking at" minor widening and a third lane for through traffic on eastbound Route 140 from west of Center Street to Route 97 south.

Mr. Dell said that although the county is not addressing intersections specifically, the public works department's goal is to bring all county roads up to a "B" rating. That rating means that drivers can maintain desired speeds but that the traffic volume is starting to affect freedom to maneuver.

Mr. Dell said the commissioners have tried to obtain money from state government to improve state highways in Carroll, "but we haven't been very successful."

Mr. Lippy said county officials can use the below-standard roads to set priorities for capital improvement programs.

Information from the Planning Department's study will be used to develop Carroll County's transportation master plan, Mr. Horn said.

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