Quick-fix options for Route 30 offered

State officials outline alternatives to bypass of town's busy roads

May 05, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

State transportation officials visited Manchester yesterday, outlining options they believe will greatly reduce rush-hour congestion on Route 30 and eliminate the need for a $70 million town bypass.

The hastily arranged visit came a day ahead of today's scheduled briefing before the state Board of Public Works in Annapolis, where transportation and highway officials and a Manchester delegation were expected to agree to short-term solutions. The town's proposal for a long-desired bypass was killed because it was deemed inconsistent with the governor's Smart Growth initiative to limit suburban sprawl.

The quick-fix options, as outlined by Marsha Kaiser, state transportation director, and Cathy Romero, project engineer for state highways, included immediately improving the timing of traffic signals on Route 30 and, if approved, adding left-turn lanes and removing about 20 parking spaces along the east side of Route 30 near the intersection of York Street to accommodate traffic heading north during the evening rush hour.

Kaiser said the changes might be accomplished by summer's end, after more planning meetings and a public hearing are held.

The town outlined its position in a letter last week to the three-member Board of Public Works, composed of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon.

Signed by the mayor, town council and members of the planning and zoning board, the letter stated that town officials still believe that a bypass is the best long-term solution.

To show a cooperative spirit toward that end, the letter stated that the town is prepared to commit to not expanding its boundaries toward the proposed bypass, and to maintain agricultural and conservation zoning along the proposed eastern route of the bypass.

Town officials also said they would agree to a limited-access bypass, with connections to existing roads -- at the state's discretion -- and would support a reduction in the scope of the proposed bypass, including the construction of a two-lane rather than a four-lane highway.

Long-term options are also being addressed by highway and transportation officials.

Perhaps within three years, Kaiser said, mile-long morning backups on southbound Route 30 could be reduced by 80 percent if the right-turn lane at Route 27 is lengthened to 1,000 feet. That would require removing the house nearest the northwest corner of the intersection, Romero said.

Traffic studies show the backups at Route 30's intersection with York Street also reach up to a mile, Romero said.

Kaiser said studies show that about 18,000 commuters travel through Manchester, many from Pennsylvania.

"We believe about 60 to 70 percent of those commuters represent an accurate amount of the through traffic," she said.

In both cases, at the York Street intersection and at Route 27, the alterations would provide for one through lane, avoiding backups behind turning vehicles, said Romero.

The upgrading of those two intersections could mean commuters would have to wait for only one light change instead of two or three, Romero said.

Other options include making two left-turn lanes on Route 27, allowing vehicles to turn north onto Route 30, she said.

Roundabouts, or traffic circles, at the north and south ends of Manchester also are being considered for keeping traffic flowing, Kaiser said.

The proposed options would cost an estimated $6 million to $7 million and would accommodate projected population growth in Manchester as well as southern Pennsylvania, Kaiser said.

In addressing residents' quality-of-life concerns, Romero said vibrations from large trucks could be lessened by reconstructing roads and sidewalks, adding a gravel base to absorb the impact of heavier vehicles.

Thoughts also have been given to removing a convenience store on the northeast corner of Route 30 at York Street, Romero said. The resulting space could be used to restore parking spaces, or to build a town plaza in conjunction with the town's desire to revitalize its Main Street.

Philip Arbaugh, Manchester's town manager, was not available to comment on yesterday's visit, or the options presented.

Before the visitors arrived, Arbaugh said the town's delegation would make its position clear to the Board of Public Works today.

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