Weighing the Extension of I-795

May 05, 1994

Before the extension of Interstate 795 from Baltimore County into Carroll is placed on the Carroll County master plan, there needs to be extensive discussion of the purpose behind building this road. Even though the possibility of constructing an interstate highway through the heart of the county has been debated heatedly for more than two years, the discussion has been superficial, at best.

The director of county planning, Ned Cueman, is on the right track. He said that before the road becomes part of the county's major planning document, it needs more study and has to be evaluated in a broad scope. Building a four-lane, limited access interstate highway has the potential to shorten the time commuters spend on the road, but it would alsohave a dramatic impact on Carroll County's environment, open spaces and quality of life. A comprehensive study is the only sensible way to sort out the complex interplay of the benefits and costs of building this highway.

Adding this road to the Carroll master plan also could have a dramatic impact on the county's entire planning effort. At the moment, the growth areas are centered around existing municipalitiesand in the southwest section of the county. Running a road through the center of the county would open new areas to intense residential, commercial and industrial development and require a rethinking of the master plan.

If the county's efforts are to concentrate development, building this road may work against those intentions. Automobiles tend to disperse rather than concentrate population. Will this reality conflict with the current plan's aims?

Any planning for I-795 also must take into consideration proposed bypasses for Westminster, Hampstead and Manchester.

The county commissioners need look no farther than their Waste-to-Energy Committee for a constructive example of how to thoroughly study a complex policy question. While this committee has not finished its report, its members have narrowed what had been an unfocused discussion on waste disposal. Assembling a broad array of experts and citizens to discuss the various impacts of extending I-795 would sharpen the analysis and, at last, provide a sound basis for deciding whether or not to include the road in Carroll's future.

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