North route selected for 140 bypass State also endorses interim plan to widen traffic-congested strip

No timetable set

County, Westminster applaud choice that some residents fought

March 13, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Nearly a decade after it was first discussed, the State Highway Administration has chosen a northern route for the Route 140 Westminster bypass.

The selection is sure to disappoint residents of the Lucabaugh Mill Road area, who for 18 months have fought the northern route, one of six options that were considered. But the proposal has the support of local businesses and the county and city governments.

State Highway Administrator Hal Kassoff also has endorsed a short-term plan to ease traffic congestion on Route 140 by widening it to four lanes in each direction between Route 97 north and Route 97 south.

The decisions, announced Monday night at the Westminster City Council meeting, don't guarantee state financing by a particular date, project manager R. Suseela Rajan said yesterday. But the bypass route and the Route 140 widening are now identified as the state's plans, ending nine years of discussion, information meetings and public hearings.

"When you're running a race and you have three hurdles to go over, at least you're over one hurdle," said Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster planning director and a member of the focus group that considered alternative bypass routes and improvements to Route 140.

The remaining two hurdles are scheduling the projects for engineering design and construction financing, Mr. Beyard said.

Ms. Rajan said the choices will not be final until the Federal Highway Administration approves them. She said they will be submitted for federal review after the SHA and historical planners work out a way to mitigate the impact of an interchange west of Hughes Shop Road on the historic Roop's Mill area.

The bypass route will lead east from that interchange, turning south at a Route 27 interchange, crossing Brehm Road, Tannery Road and the West Branch of the Patapsco River, then turning southeast and merging with existing Route 140 one mile west of Reese Road.

The route chosen is "fairly close" to the bypass route the county government identified in its master plan, said Steve Horn, Carroll transportation planner. He said the SHA modified the county's proposed route at Tannery and Gorsuch Roads so that it would have less impact on the West Branch of the Patapsco.

Ms. Rajan said Mr. Kassoff decided on widening Route 140 as a short-term improvement after a proposal to improve Route 140 and eliminate the need for a bypass turned out to be too expensive. The citizens group Carroll Life proposed adding underpasses and overpasses at existing intersections to speed traffic on Route 140.

Widening the highway from the existing two or three lanes to four lanes "is the one [option] the focus group concluded it can live with," Ms. Rajan said. The group included representatives from Carroll Life.

Thomas K. Ferguson, president of Carroll County Bank and chairman of the Greater Westminster Development Corp., said he thinks the bypass route choice "will be received as good news" by local businesses. Business owners spoke out against the Carroll Life proposal last year.

Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said he was pleased with the state's bypass route choice. "It recognizes that Route 140 cannot be remade to take the place of the bypass," he said.

It could be 15 to 20 years before a Westminster bypass is built, "but I don't think it'll be that long," the mayor said. "I think there's going to be pressure before that."

County planners project that the population of Westminster and surrounding area, now 32,000, will grow to 40,000 by 2005.

Pub Date: 3/13/96

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