With the reconstruction of Westminster's Pennsylvania Avenue banging, rumbling and rolling along ahead of schedule, the State Highway Administration is turning its attention to West Main Street.
And the West Main Street/Pennsylvania Avenue Task Force is thinking about a way to link West Main Street and Uniontown Road as the major traffic channel at the triangle created by Uniontown Road, West Main Street and Old New Windsor Pike, which turns into Doyle Avenue at the city limits.
The West Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue projects are part of an SHA plan to rebuild Main Street, which is state Route 32, then turn over ownership of it to city government.
The series of projects began with reconstruction of West Main Street from Bond Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, and Pennsylvania Avenue to Union Street. That work was completed in 1990.
City streets "no longer function as state highways," said Gene R. Straub, SHA assistant district engineer for traffic. He said that, although the state is spending money to improve the streets before transferring ownership to the city, "It's well worth it to us" to do the work.
State officials don't have money budgeted for the construction on West Main Street, but SHA is going ahead with the design, Mr. Straub said. That project will include West Main Street from the Pennsylvania Avenue intersection to Route 31.
The West Main Street/Pennsylvania Avenue Task Force has begun studying how to improve the intersection of Uniontown Road, Old New Windsor Pike and West Main Street. One idea that emerged from a recent task force meeting is to merge West Main Street and Uniontown Road to form a through street.
"The question is whether traffic coming out West Main Street should be diverted to Uniontown Road," Mr. Straub said.
City Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard reported general agreement among task force members that most traffic in the intersection now uses Uniontown Road. Linking the two streets wouldn't bar drivers from continuing west on Main Street, but would require them to make a right turn at the intersection, he said.
The task force also is considering ways to eliminate a blind spot for drivers pulling out of Union Street east of that intersection.
Mr. Straub said pedestrian nodes -- concrete bubbles that slow traffic and mark crosswalks on East Main Street -- could be a possible addition to the West Main Street project. He said one node might be placed at a crossing that is used by Western Maryland College students.
Western Maryland officials would like to see the SHA lower the crown of West Main Street several feet at the crest of the hill, where college buildings are separated by the street.
"Safety is what we're really concerned about, the safety of our students and staff crossing the street," said Edgar Sell, director of facilities planning and capital projects at the college and a member of the task force.
The SHA closed Pennsylvania Avenue from Union Street to Sullivan Avenue in April to rebuild the street. The project has encountered only minor glitches and is now about one week ahead of schedule, said Ron Ritz, who supervises the work for SHA. The scheduled completion date is Nov. 17.
"We've been blessed with very good weather, and the rain we have received hasn't impacted the project," Mr. Ritz said.
Rain could affect the later stages of construction, he said.
On the hottest days this summer, crews worked shorter hours, Mr. Ritz said. "The heat has been hard on the men, but we didn't shut down."
Karen Clift, president of Neighbors United, the neighborhood association that represents residents of Pennsylvania Avenue, Union Street and West Main Street, said she hasn't heard any complaints from residents about the construction.
"I think everyone has been more or less dealing with it," she said.