Candidate Ridgely challenges Dell to debate I-795 extension

August 30, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

County commissioner candidate Neil M. Ridgely challenged Commissioner Donald I. Dell yesterday to debate what Mr. Ridgely called "this ridiculous project" -- extending Interstate 795 into Carroll County.

Mr. Dell declined to say whether he will accept because Mr. Ridgely had not talked to him. "I don't generally turn down a challenge. I'd like for him to come to me and explain what his issues are," Mr. Dell said.

The commissioner proposed last year that I-795 be extended into Carroll County. In an Aug. 12 memo, Mr. Dell directed the county planning department to study the extension of the interstate and other alternatives to relieve traffic congestion.

Mr. Ridgely was active in the formation of the Carroll County Civic Association, a citizens group that opposes the I-795 extension.

Meanwhile, the commissioners received concept approval late last week from the State Highway Administration (SHA) for a feasibility study of access controls along Route 140 from the end of I-795 in Reisterstown to Reese, where a Westminster bypass would begin.

"Both Carroll County and the state are in agreement that [the study] is a good idea, but we want to make sure it's a good idea with Baltimore County," said SHA regional planner Steven McHenry.

Mr. Dell said county government may be involved in two studies, one to address the I-795 extension and other ways to cut traffic congestion, and one to look at access controls on Route 140 between Reisterstown and Reese. He said it is unlikely "that we'd incorporate the 795 issue into that [access controls] study."

Mr. Ridgely called for a debate after learning of the study ordered in Mr. Dell's memo.

"This ridiculous project and the cloud of uncertainty it places over countians' property values and their quality of life must be laid to rest," the Democratic candidate said.

Who is running Carroll, Mr. Ridgely asked in a statement: "The Economic Development Commission, the elected board of commissioners or Donald Dell -- alone -- as one voice who cannot understand the voice of the people saying no?"

He referred to EDC's endorsement of the extension of I-795. Paul Denton, chairman of the EDC, said the commission didn't simply take Mr. Dell's position on the idea. "We're looking at what is best for moving traffic through Carroll County, from an objective point of view," he said.

Mr. Denton said the extension could channel traffic around both Westminster and the Hampstead-Manchester corridor. A Route 30 bypass around Hampstead leads the county's priority list of projects.

Mr. Dell signed the Aug. 12 memo as president of the commissioners, not on his own. He said the other commissioners had the chance to read and comment on it.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said last week that he could not recall agreeing to study extending I-795. He said yesterday that minutes of a July meeting where the commissioners discussed it with EDC representatives show that the commissioners "implied that 795 [extension] be considered . . . but we didn't mention any particular corridor."

Mr. Dell said the I-795 extension headed the memo because the EDC's transportation committee had approached the commissioners with the proposal to study it and other possible alternatives.

State Highway Administrator Hal Kassoff wrote in a letter endorsing the access controls study, "We have no plans to extend I-795 westward beyond its current terminus at MD 140."

Commissioner Lippy said, despite the absence of plans to extend I-795, he doesn't want to see the idea die.

At the EDC meeting he agreed to put it on the master plan. But, he said, he didn't know at the time that required studies would cost $20,750 a mile and would not now vote to spend that money to get I-795 on the master plan.

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