Route 140 is scheduled for a $3 million face lift next summer -- resurfacing from Finksburg to Sandymount Road and patching from Sandymount Road to the western side of Westminster.
The State Highway Administration will also synchronize traffic signals around Westminster in an effort to reduce traffic backups. Gene R. Straub, SHA assistant district engineer for traffic, said a computer will sense when traffic is heaviest and in what direction, and will adjust the interconnected signals to give longer "green time" to heavier traffic.
The resurfacing and patching have nothing to do with a proposed Westminster bypass, Mr. Straub said. Public hearings on a proposed bypass last summer generated organized opposition from residents north of Westminster, some of whom would lose houses to the road. A proposed southern alignment also attracted opposition from residents of the heavily developed area along Route 31.
The $3 million face lift "is just system preservation," Mr. Straub said. "It's a completely separate project. It would have to be done whether we did the bypass or not."
The SHA is not expected to decide until late spring whether to put a Westminster bypass on its project list and if so, whether it would be routed north or south of the city. R. Suseela Rajan, SHA project manager for the bypass, said the staff is studying options suggested by Carroll Life, a bypass opponents' group.
The SHA staff plans another meeting with Carroll Life before making a decision, Ms. Rajan said. Alternatives range from no changes in existing Route 140 to a southern bypass, the most expensive option at $230 million to $250 million.
State highway officials are scheduled to advertise for bids for the resurfacing and signal project in February. The project will include resurfacing Route 140 from Route 91 in Finksburg to Sandymount Road and patching the road between the intersections of Sandymount Road and Route 31 on the western side of Westminster, said SHA traffic engineer John M. Concannon.
Construction is scheduled to start in late spring. Mr. Concannon said the roadway to be resurfaced or patched covers 9.4 miles.
Traffic lights on Route 140 around Westminster are currently synchronized during peak hours and Saturdays, Mr. Straub said. But because the system is on time clocks, the lights can't be reset to respond to heavy traffic that might start earlier or continue later than preset peak hours.
"It's not the most efficient system," Mr. Straub said.
After the computerized system is in place, Mr. Straub said drivers should be able to go around Westminster on green lights. The SHA doesn't guarantee that the first traffic light after a motorist enters Route 140 will be green, he said, "But once you get a green [light], you should have greens all the way through."
The SHA will be able to vary the length of a complete traffic light cycle, Mr. Straub said. In Westminster, most intersections of Route 140 are at or near capacity, so the cycle length will probably be a maximum of three minutes, he said. He said the average cycle length -- the time a driver waits to get onto the highway after pulling up to a traffic light that has just turned red -- is about two minutes.
The state also erected an overhead sign on westbound Route 140 just west of Sullivan Avenue last week. That sign helps tell drivers what lane to be in to travel north on Route 97, south on Route 31 or continue west on Route 140.
Meanwhile, a Westminster government contract to widen North Center Street at Route 140 and add a right turn lane was completed Dec. 9. The project ran about a month behind schedule for two reasons, said Thomas B. Beyard, city Public Works director: Workers had to leave existing utility poles in place until new ones were installed, and a contractor had difficulty getting the right kind of wire.
Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr. said he was happy to see the work finished.
"I live on that side of town, and I was getting a lot of calls from people," Mr. Chapin said.