Expansion of Route 32 called vital Officials say 4 lanes needed from I-70 north to Route 26

Money is the obstacle

Improvement urged for increased traffic, development of area

September 18, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

There's only one obstacle to building a four-lane highway along Route 32 from Interstate 70 north to Route 26 -- money.

Carroll officials say a 7.5-mile, four-lane highway with at-grade, signaled intersections and no interchanges is vital, not only for handling increased traffic, but for the county's economic development hopes.

The state has improved a 2.4-mile stretch of Route 32 in Howard County from Clarksville south toward Interstate 95; that section opened in March at a cost of $55 million. Also, improvements to Route 32 from Clarksville to I-70 are in the planning stage, state highway officials said.

Improvements to the Carroll section of Route 32, now a two-lane highway posted at 50 mph, would give the county "a good connection to I-70 and employment centers," said Steve Horn, county transportation planner. "The only question is construction funding."

State and local transportation officials took a drive along the road yesterday, looking for obstacles that would deter improvements. They found no flaws in their plans.

"We can fit a dualized [four-lane] highway within the existing roadway and right of way," said Steven R. McHenry, assistant division chief for regional planning at the State Highway Administration. "We have come up with a concept that will provide safety and additional capacity, based on traffic projections."

The tour yesterday was the final step in a feasibility study, begun in May at the request of the County Commissioners and the legislative delegation. Carroll County hopes to make Route 32 its major north-south connection to I-95 through Howard County.

Carroll County must continue to pursue improvements to Route 32 in the near future, said Horn. He foresees significant traffic increases into Carroll, once the Clarksville to I-70 segment is completed.

"Traffic volume has increased significantly south of Route 108 in Howard County since improvements were completed," said Horn. "When the next section is completed, we are going to see that increase come closer. What is going to happen on our stretch of [Route] 32?"

The feasibility study, which is nearly ready for the commissioners to review, is an inexpensive -- about $35,000 -- broad-brush tool, said McHenry. Planners reviewed Route 32 and about five miles of Route 26 west to Route 97. No major widening would occur on Route 32 north of Route 26.

Highway designers develop "enough information to come up with goals and save six months on project planning," said McHenry. He stressed that there is no schedule and no money to push the Route 32 project in Carroll. Normally, about seven years of planning precede highway construction.

About 17,000 vehicles a day travel on Route 32 between I-70 and Route 26, about 3,000 more per day than are using the improved section in Howard County.

Congestion is building in Carroll, but traffic is still flowing adequately, McHenry said. If no improvements take place, Route 32 is projected to become what highway planners call a "failed highway" within 25 years.

The study, which includes no cost estimates, recommends construction of another two-lane roadway west of the existing two lanes. All four lanes and a 34-foot median would fit into the 300-foot right of way, which the state owns along most of Route 32.

The plan also calls for frontage roads -- also within the right of way -- to limit private access to the highway. It also allows for an as-yet undecided new access road at the north end of Sykesville.

The state will ask the county to add the completed study to its master plan for South Carroll, which is now under review.

"Then both the county and the state can protect rights of way from development and steer development to the design we have come up with," said McHenry.

Matthew H. Candland, Sykesville town manager, said the proposed design for the highway is sensible and sensitive to safety, aesthetics and traffic flow.

"The only downside is that it is decades down the road," said Candland. "It needs to happen much sooner."

Pub Date: 9/18/96

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