Freedom District study recommends service roads Transportation plan would relieve congestion on busy Routes 26, 32

March 22, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A recent transportation study of the Freedom District recommends service roads be built along the busy Route 26 corridor and long-planned connector roads be completed.

The proposed roads would give local traffic other options than the main thoroughfares, Routes 26 and 32. Both concepts were also included in a 21-year-old master plan for the Freedom District, but the roads were not constructed. The county has not abandoned those projects and recently paid $200,000 for a 1.5-acre parcel on Route 26 west of Monroe Avenue that will serve as a link in a long-planned service road.

"It is part of the parallel service road concept, in the event the service road moves forward," said Steve Horn, bureau chief for the county planning department. "Still, much more needs to be purchased."

The county paid $68,000 for the study, prepared by Whitney, Bailey, Cox and Magnani, a Towson-based engineering company.

Increasing demand on state highways is coming from both local and through traffic, the study showed. The district lies in the county's fastest-growing area.

The County Commissioners and the Planning and Zoning Commission jointly looked at the Freedom Area Transportation Study last week.

The planning commission must decide which of the recommendations in the 29-page report the county can afford. Many major intersections, including the main crossroads on Routes 26 and 32, will soon cause unacceptable delays for motorists without major, costly improvements, the report says.

Roads are a major concern in Freedom District, the county's most populous area with 27,000 residents. Many residents have called for a halt in residential and commercial growth until road problems are addressed.

The consultants looked at existing roads, studied accident data and conducted traffic counts before making projections based on growth patterns. The study looks at what could happen in five years and by 2020.

"The study shows that for the most part, the network is operating adequately, but that could change considerably," Horn said. "If development occurs more rapidly, we will need greater improvements sooner."

About 1,500 more homes are planned in the Freedom area, which includes all of South Carroll, during the next five years.

Several major commercial projects are in development. Among those is a proposed $30 million shopping center, expected to dump 15,000 more vehicles a day on area roads.

"In the past, we have relied exclusively on the State Highway Administration for improvements to its highways," Horn said. "We need improvements on those roads soon, and we are not seeing any state money. Maintenance is chewing up the state roads budget, and we are not seeing dollars for new construction."

County and development support for state road improvements could hasten the process, he said.

"We should stop looking for state help and plan development with a vision of highways and houses," said Ed Wheatley, a county planning commissioner.

Grant S. Dannelly, another county planning commissioner, said Eldersburg should have a bypass. He opposes more intersections and traffic lights on Route 32, which the county envisions as its main access to interstates.

"We have bottled the highways up with lights," Dannelly said. "Eldersburg needs a bypass, so we can get to I-70 in a timely fashion."

Officials will schedule a public work session early next month to discuss the study.

Pub Date: 3/22/98

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