Dangerous plot for Olive Garden Carroll County: Planning body should reconsider restaurant traffic problem.

February 19, 1997

THE MOST DANGEROUS intersection in the Westminster area comes at a steep downhill grade for westbound traffic on Carroll County's busiest highway.

Is that where you'd want to place a new family restaurant? If so, you agree with the county Planning and Zoning Commission and owners of the popular Olive Garden chain. The county planning body last month approved plans for the 6,000-square-foot Italian restaurant at the intersection of Route 140 and Gorsuch Road.

The approval came despite protests of Westminster officials for further study of intersection traffic and additional road improvements.

The prevailing opinion of the four commission members voting for the restaurant seemed to be that the intersection is already bad, and that one more cause of evening-hour gridlock or accident would not make much difference.

But as The Sun's Sheridan Lyons reported, that juncture had 23 auto accidents, six of them with serious injuries, in the latest annual survey by the State Highway Administration. That was twice the number of accidents at the next worst Westminster site. "The (proposed restaurant) configuration creates an opportunity for head-on collision," predicted Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's public works chief. "It will get worse before it gets better."

Already receiving a failing grade of "E" during the evening rush hour from the SHA, the intersection would fall to the lowest rating of "F" with the opening of the restaurant.

To be sure, at least three popular eateries are already located near the Gorsuch road intersection. But there is no public interest in allowing another traffic magnet there to make a bad situation worse. Nor is there any real sense of commercial equity, all establishments suffer from the predicted congestion and backup.

The county will require the developer to build another southbound turn lane on Gorsuch Road; city planners say at least one more northbound lane is also needed on that road.

Yet the potential public danger at that intersection strongly indicates that the planning commission reconsider its decision. It should find a better traffic solution before the Olive Garden owners start construction. Shrugging shoulders at obvious traffic hazards is not responsible planning policy.

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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