State aid sought to improve Route 97 Transportation chief gets firsthand look at traffic problems

September 19, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

County officials took Maryland's transportation secretary on a tour of Route 97 north of Westminster yesterday to let him see up close one of Carroll's most dangerous stretches of road.

"There have been a lot of fatal accidents on [Route] 97 -- three in 24 hours," Steven C. Horn, county transportation planner, told Secretary David L. Winstead.

Despite the tour, county officials believe they are unlikely to get additional state money for road improvements in next year's budget, but they wanted to plant a seed for the future.

"We wanted him to see the conditions of that heavy traffic and the narrowness of the road," said County Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who accompanied Winstead on the tour.

Increasing traffic along the road, much of it commuters from Pennsylvania, has made improvements to the road a growing priority. Route 97 also is the main access road to Westminster Air Business Center and industrial sites.

"I was able to look firsthand at where there are additional needs," Winstead said after the tour.

After a similar tour last year, Winstead found $5 million extra for the long-awaited Hampstead bypass, the county's No. 1 priority for state funding.

After the tour, Winstead met with the county's elected officials and presented them with an oversized check for $549,000, the county's portion of state road revenue.

It was not, however, a sign of things to come.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has directed him to "hold the line" on the transportation budget, keeping funding at the same level as last year, Winstead said.

That means no new programs for Carroll and that several projects already in the pipeline are proceeding slowly.

It will cost $400 million to $500 million to build the Hampstead, Manchester and Westminster bypasses, all aimed at alleviating traffic along congested highways, Parker Williams, a state highway administrator, told officials. No construction money has been assigned to any of the projects.

Of the three proposed bypasses, Hampstead's is furthest along with the design 40 percent complete, Williams said. About half of the rights of way have been purchased, he said.

Planning for the Manchester bypass is about 15 percent complete, Williams said.

About $122,000 has been set aside for engineering on the Westminster bypass. Planning of that road is 95 percent complete, he said, but several right-of-way issues have yet to be settled with the federal government.

County officials also received updates on smaller road projects in Carroll.

The $3.3 million Taneytown roundabout is expected to be completed next month.

The $1.2 million resurfacing of Liberty Road from Georgetown Boulevard to Liberty Reservoir is slated to be finished in November, pending decent weather.

The $1.3 resurfacing of Ridge Road from Route 26 to Nicodemus Road should be advertised in July and completed next fall.

William Long, deputy administrator of the state Motor Vehicle Administration, said the agency expects to build a 3,000-square-foot facility next to the state police barracks on Route 140 to process drivers' license renewals.

Pub Date: 9/19/96

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