State seeks to shelve bypass plan for Manchester, county planner says Commissioners urged to reconfirm support for 'important' project

July 02, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A proposed bypass around the town of Manchester is in

trouble at the state level, Carroll's planning director told the County Commissioners yesterday, urging them to express their support again for the project.

"There appears to be efforts formulated at a high level to shelve the project indefinitely," Philip J. Rovang said in a memo he gave the commissioners yesterday.

His memo summarized a closed meeting last week with officials from the towns of Manchester and Hampstead, the Maryland Office of Planning and the State Highway Administration.

"Now, all bets are off," Rovang told the commissioners. A recently completed corridor study is no longer valid, he said. "What we heard at that meeting was that all that effort, that

whole study, was out."

The feeling is that the governor's Smart Growth legislation directing growth to developed areas "does not encourage the bypass," Rovang said.

The commissioners had designated bypasses for Manchester and Hampstead as high-priority road projects about 1 1/2 years ago.

While the county and the towns want to save their Main Streets from too much traffic, the state is more interested in future urban growth and its impact on traffic, Rovang said.

"I think we need a clear statement," he said, because state officials are now completing a "needs and purpose statement" to justify continued planning for the Manchester bypass.

A Hampstead bypass has been approved. Engineering is almost complete, and the project will soon enter the land-acquisition phase, said Mary Deitz, regional planner for the State Highway Administration's Regional and Intermodal Planning Division, after last week's meeting.

Nothing official is in the state pipeline for Manchester, she said.

But Manchester's Town Manager David M. Warner said at the meeting last week that the town would suffer unless a bypass is built. "Downtown will not be fully revitalized until we pull that traffic out," he said.

Steven C. Horn, chief of the county's planning bureau, and Eric Soter, a transportation planner, outlined yesterday traffic analyses that project failing intersections in Manchester once the Hampstead bypass is completed -- dumping more traffic into its neighbor to the north.

"These two projects have a long and storied past," Horn told the commissioners, noting that the original plan called for a single bypass around both towns, which lie on Route 30 west of the Baltimore County line.

Hampstead's project has moved along for about 20 years, then "picked up steam," Horn said. "Manchester, on the other hand, is another story.

BTC "Back in the '60s, when we first started thinking about it, [the projects of] Hampstead and Manchester were virtually inseparable," he said.

But Manchester was dropped from the project, Horn said, because "they had some development proposed in the path of the alignment, and the town -- much to our dismay -- approved some development, which pretty much eliminated this western alignment."

In 1989, the two-town bypass was deleted from the county's master plan, he said.

"They have been decoupled, where once they were one," agreed Max Bair, the commissioners' chief of staff.

"We're paying the price 10 years later," Horn said. It took strong backing from a later board of commissioners and then-Del. Richard N. Dixon to get the Manchester plan back in the works in the 1990s.

All the while, "Hampstead continued to move forward, while Manchester lagged," Horn said.

Now even the dotted line on the map for the Manchester bypass has been erased by the state.

Horn told the commissioners the county will have to show all over again how interdependent the two bypasses are -- "why they're important to the entire Route 30 corridor, in addition to the towns and the citizens of Manchester."

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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