Governor unmoved by 2-1 vote for bypass

Glendening wants improvements on Main St. instead

May 06, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

The issue of a bypass around a small Carroll County town led to fireworks among three of the state's most powerful politicians yesterday, as Gov. Parris N. Glendening stood firm in his opposition to building even a smaller version of a highway around Manchester.

Glendening supports a new State Highway Administration six-point plan that would improve traffic flow through the north Carroll town by adding turn lanes and roundabouts, at one-tenth the cost of the bypass' original $70 million price tag.

If you can make the traffic flow more smoothly and efficiently for $5 [million] to $7 million, "why would you spend $70 million for a project that would increase sprawl, and that's what we're looking at here," Glendening said after a state Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis.

The other two members of the board, Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, were just as passionate in their support of a bypass as a long-term solution.

"These are improvements we should have made already,"

Schaefer said of the SHA plan. They may alleviate conditions, but it won't reduce the traffic, he said.

"The traffic will still be coming right through the center of town the way it is now," Schaefer said.

Dixon, who was a legislator from Carroll County before he became treasurer, noted that the Hampstead bypass, which has been approved but awaits funding, was always meant to extend around Manchester as well.

"It's one bypass," Dixon said. "[There are] 1.1 miles between the two town limits. Doesn't that have a major impact on what we're talking about?"

Dixon and Schaefer voted 2-1 to exempt the bypass project from Smart Growth restrictions and to look at scaling it down to a two-lane road in hopes of building it for less money.

That action is a necessary first step for the bypass. But for the project to receive money, the governor would have to approve it. And he has no plans to do so, he said.

"You can make the motion, but the motion has no impact," Glendening said after Schaefer moved to resurrect the bypass in a scaled-back version of two lanes instead of four.

"I'm serious about doing something about sprawl," Glendening said.

Schaefer bristled at Glendening's remark that his and Dixon's votes would have no impact.

"You are the governor, and it doesn't make a difference," Schaefer said. "You are going to do what you want to do."

Glendening pointed out that Schaefer never got the decades-old bypass around Hampstead and Manchester built when he was governor. Schaefer shot back, "You're absolutely right. I didn't do it. It wasn't brought to my attention."

"We're not going to give up the battle," Dixon said after the meeting. He declined to elaborate on how he would try to revive the project. "I have to keep my battle plans secret," he said.

The issue of what to do about the daily backups and relentless truck and automobile traffic on Route 30 in Manchester came up at the Board of Public Works meeting because the State Highway Administration is proposing turn lanes and roundabouts that could allow traffic to flow more smoothly.

Parker Williams, head of the State Highway Administration, said the improvements would bring the intersections from a "Level F" -- for "failing" -- to a "Level B." That would mean the difference between a driver sitting at an intersection for several cycles of traffic lights and sitting through one cycle, he said.

The roundabouts would be at the north and south ends of town, and would serve to slow traffic from the 50 mph speed limit outside town to the 30 mph inside its borders, he said.

Extending the right-turn lane for cars turning from southbound Route 30 onto Route 27 would ease morning backups on southbound Route 30, Williams said. It would require removal of a house and acquiring a right of way in front of a nursing home at that corner.

Several town and county officials and Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll Republican, argued for the bypass, often referring to the growing number of former Maryland residents who move to the Hanover, Pa., area and continue to commute to jobs in Maryland.

They said Carroll has done much to control growth. Manchester has pledged not to allow any growth in the direction of the bypass and is willing to accept limited access to the highway and two lanes instead of four, said Chris D'Amario, vice president of the Town Council and unopposed candidate for mayor.

County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said Manchester's Main Street has become a virtual interstate highway for tractor-trailers and other heavy traffic between Pennsylvania and Interstate 795. She said more than 2,000 homes have been built in Hanover in the past nine years, and more than 3,000 are expected to be built in the next 15 years.

"Fifty to 60 percent of these new homes being built in the Hanover area are for Maryland residents," she said. "Most keep their jobs in Maryland."

Other Pennsylvania residents are attracted to the higher salaries in Maryland, she said.

After the meeting, Glendening said that the talk about growth in Pennsylvania did not sway him. Maryland would be spending millions that might promote more residential development in southern Pennsylvania, and therefore more traffic, he said.

"It makes more sense for the state to pay for in-town improvements, at one-tenth the cost of a bypass, that meet the area's transportation needs without promoting sprawl," Glendening said in a statement he issued a few hours after the meeting. "These in-town improvements are realistic and reasonable solutions, and I will work aggressively to fund them."

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