Road work plans target congestion at Routes 26, 32 Traffic officials say improvements might prevent delays

November 26, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

With Carroll County planning commission's push to improve roads in the Eldersburg area, residents of Carroll's most populated area might get relief from traffic congestion.

Proposed improvements would divert traffic from the area's main intersection at Routes 26 and 32, which traffic experts predict will cause major delays within the next few years.

At peak hours, motorists often wait through two lights before crossing the area's main intersection. Daily traffic counts reach 34,000 vehicles on Route 26 and exceed 21,000 on Route 32, a road many use to reach Columbia and Interstates 70 and 95.

"We have to divert traffic pressure from the 26 and 32 intersection," said Deborah L. Ridgely, vice chairwoman of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission. "There are projects that will let people move around more safely and with less congestion."

Among the commission's recommendations are completion of connector roads, side roads through neighborhoods that connect to main thoroughfares; construction of service roads, which would run parallel to Route 26 and provide access to businesses; and improvements to Obrecht Road from Route 97 to Route 32.

"The pressure is never going to come off [the intersection of Routes] 32 and 26 unless we do something," said Grant S. Dannelly, a planning commission member.

"We are to blame for the pressure because we do nothing to alleviate it," he said. "We are negligent in completing service roads. That is our responsibility."

The original blueprint for growth in South Carroll was written in 1977. In the past 21 years, the population has doubled to nearly 28,000, but roads, schools and other infrastructure have not kept pace.

The newly revised comprehensive plan for the area recommends improvements to transportation, particularly along Routes 26 and 32, and urges the county to make completion of connector roads a priority. That plan is being reviewed by the county commissioners, who will hold a public hearing in January before taking action.

"Until now, the policy of the county has been to wait until developers construct planned major streets," the plan says. "This has led to the construction of incomplete roads."

The county has designed about 17 connector roads in South Carroll, expecting developers to complete segments as subdivisions were constructed. If the county has to fill those gaps, the cost would be about $20 million.

Completing Macbeth Way and Monroe Avenue -- proposed connector roads off Route 32 that feed into major developments -- would help ease the traffic crunch, Ridgely said.

"There are segments of both that have not been done, and we recommend trying to connect those segments," she said. "Once that is done, people would not have to go through the 26 and 32 intersection."

Macbeth Way would run from Marriottsville Road to Route 32, giving traffic south of Route 26 another outlet.

If Monroe Avenue was extended to Pine Knob Road, that road could help traffic north of the area's most troublesome intersection.

For Nimrod Davis, a member of Freedom Area Citizens Council, a group that advises county officials on South Carroll issues, those improvements would also mean more traffic signals on Route 32.

"I don't think it will help that much," Davis said. "They will have to put a light at Macbeth Way and 32, only a few hundred yards south of the light at Route 26. They will probably have to put another one at Pine Knob."

The State Highway Administration is trying to limit the number of signals along Route 32, which could eventually be a four-lane highway from Route 26 in Carroll County south to Interstate 95.

"We want easy access to I-70," said Dannelly. "Industry must have direct access that does not have so many signals."

The commission has also requested improvements to Obrecht Road, making it an "Eldersburg bypass," serving as an alternative to Route 26, said Dannelly.

Ridgely would make Obrecht Road improvements a priority.

Phil Bennett, newly elected chairman of the 15-member Freedom council, said he would support the recommendations, but would like the commission to adhere to a priority list. Bennett would place Obrecht Road improvements near the top.

"If we could get traffic from Route 97 to Route 32 without using Route 26, it would go a long way to relieving congestion," Bennett said.

Residents will have several opportunities to review the new growth plan. Information sessions will be from held 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 3 at Wesley-Freedom United Methodist Church, and Dec. 8 at Oklahoma Road Middle School.

A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 7 at Liberty High School in Eldersburg.

Pub Date: 11/26/98

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