Carroll County officials should focus on improving Route 140 through Westminster because a bypass probably won't be built in the next 20 years, the state highway administrator says.
State money would be better spent upgrading Route 140 so that traffic flows more smoothly during rush hours, Hal Kassoff said Monday.
The state will not have the $200 million needed to build the bypass in the next 10 to 20 years, he said.
Upgrading the road is a short-term solution to increased traffic on Route 140, Mr. Kassoff said, and a bypass is a long-term solution but won't be realistic for many years.
He and other Maryland Department of Transportation officials discussed the issue with local officials at their annual meeting at the County Office Building in Westminster.
The proposed bypass has been controversial. Residents whose properties might be on the bypass route have formed a group called Carroll Life to fight the proposed highway.
Several routes have been discussed, but officials have not chosen one. The four-lane road would run from near Hughes Shop Road to near Reese Road, about eight miles east.
The decision on a bypass is up to local officials, Mr. Kassoff said. "We will not undercut your local plan," he said.
The state considers Route 140 through Carroll a rural road that doesn't have a high volume of traffic, Mr. Kassoff said.
"Common sense" says Route 140 should be upgraded, Mr. Kassoff said. The road is "a Maryland-only corridor" that does not carry large volumes of traffic to another county or state, he said.
By comparison, Route 30 through Hampstead and Manchester handles traffic from Pennsylvania heading toward Interstate 795 in Reisterstown, he said. A Route 30 bypass is needed, he said.
Mr. Kassoff said state transportation officials should meet with local officials after Tuesday's election to "forge a consensus" for implementing improvements to Route 140. He did not suggest specific improvements.
Del. Donald B. Elliott, a District 4B Republican, was adamant that the state keep the bypass in its plan.
"You can't sit on a long-term solution for 20 years. You've got to plan," he said.
Del. Richard N. Dixon, a District 5 Democrat, said he agreed that Route 140 does not need a bypass yet because the road is jammed only during rush hours.
Mr. Dixon commutes from Westminster to his job in Baltimore on Route 140 and can make the trip in 45 minutes if he leaves by 6:45 a.m., he said, but if he leaves half an hour later, the trip takes twice as long.
Residents should commute when they know there will be less traffic, and businesses should schedule deliveries for between midnight and 6 a.m. to lessen truck traffic during the day, he said.
Sen. Larry E. Haines, a District 5 Republican, said driving from one side of Westminster to the other sometimes takes 15 minutes. He urged transportation officials to plan for a bypass.