The Route 140 boom Road improvements are needed as developers flock to this stretch.

January 26, 1996

DEVELOPMENT ALONG Westminster's main commercial strip -- Route 140 -- is quickening. Construction is already underway for a 116,000-square-foot Target discount store. National chains that once ignored Carroll County, such as Red Lobster and Ruby Tuesday, plan to build restaurants along the same thoroughfare.

This surge in development on the stretch of Route 140 between Route 97 south and Route 97 north is further evidence that Carroll is no longer considered a remote outback by outside companies. Large retailers who spend millions in marketing research have crunched their numbers and find Carroll's demographics reflective of a growing suburb.

The largest boom segment is composed of young families in their spending years, people busy buying and furnishing houses and raising children. Carroll's median household income is among the highest in Maryland. Retailers seeking new markets act quickly on such data.

Overall, this is good news for the county. More businesses mean more jobs, more income for individuals, more revenue for government. Carroll consumers will have more stores from which to choose, meaning better selection and more competitive prices. The continued concentration of development close to the county seat also reduces the sprawl that consumes open agricultural space.

There's one large caveat, however. This increase in development comes at a time when the infrastructure -- particularly the road network around Westminster -- is inadequate.

The addition of more stores and restaurants along a mile of Route 140 will exacerbate the current congestion through Westminster. Commuters headed toward Taneytown and north to Pennsylvania will continue mixing with local traffic. Route 140 someday may resemble the terribly congested portion of U.S. 301 that traverses Waldorf in Charles County.

County officials should use this opportunity to impress upon state highway officials that the proposed improvements for Route 140 are inadequate to handle the current and prospective development.

The State Highway Administration should take another look at this area. The community can't wait 10 or 15 years for major improvements to this thoroughfare.

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