FASTER THAN expected, perhaps slower than hoped for, the pieces are beginning to come together for economic development in South Carroll.
The latest good news is the state's agreement for a two-month traffic study to consider widening Route 32 to four lanes from Interstate 70 to Sykesville. That 7 1/2 -mile, north-south stretch is critical in attracting industrial and business development to Carroll County, particularly the Sykesville-Eldersburg area.
Transportation improvements are essential if southeast Carroll is fully recognize its development potential, instead of remaining the magnet for accelerating residential growth, overburdening public services and generating less tax revenue than businesses.
Earlier this year, the state began efforts to sell off the 130-acre Warfield Complex of Springfield Hospital Center along Route 32, which holds great promise of new jobs and an expanded tax base for the county. Widening the state highway north of I-70 is needed to achieve its optimum development.
The county last month authorized a transportation study of that Freedom District corridor, looking at the entire network of roads and various scenarios. The State Highway Administration says that county study would speed up consideration of adding two lanes to Route 32.
Further impetus comes from the opening this year of a widened Route 32 in Howard County, near Clarksville. That 2 1/2 -mile highway is already credited with easing traffic flows and reducing commuter crawl. Howard officials now pledge their support to Carroll in getting Route 32 widened from Sykesville to I-70; eventually, the highway would be enlarged from Clarksville to I-70.
One immediate hurdle is that 1994 traffic counts along the Carroll segment are high, but not overly so, according to the SHA. The new studies will raise those numbers, no doubt, but will also show how much of the traffic occurs in peak periods, a key factor.
For South Carroll, the greater importance is in facilitating potential development. State plans to spin off part of Springfield will further that objective. The Route 32 project could be on the state construction calendar within five years -- beyond the millennium, but still in the foreseeable future.
Pub Date: 5/10/96