Manchester residents to SHA: Build the bypass

State proposal to improve Main St. fails to impress

June 30, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The message to state highway officials was clear: Manchester residents rejected their short-term solutions for traffic congestion along Route 30, the town's Main Street. They want a bypass.

State highway officials received an earful from more than 150 residents and business owners at a public informational meeting at Manchester Elementary School on Monday.

Before the two-hour meeting, Manchester Mayor Chris D'Amario favored some of the proposed $7 million solutions. He won't support them now.

State funding for the $70 million bypass was killed in January when Gov. Parris N. Glendening decided that a four-lane Manchester bypass would violate the state's Smart Growth initiative and encourage suburban sprawl.

Main Street improvements proposed by highway officials include adding left-turn lanes and removing up to 20 parking spaces at the intersection of Route 30 and York Street to allow through traffic to pass turning vehicles; and a 1,000-foot right-turn lane for southbound traffic approaching Route 27.

Other proposed changes would enhance the Manchester business district with brick sidewalks, new signs and landscaping.

"The people have spoken, and I was listening," D'Amario said after the meeting. "They do not want a quick fix, and I won't support these [State Highway Administration] proposals."

The consensus, judging from the applause given to most of about 20 speakers, was clear: Manchester needs a $70 million bypass to handle commuter traffic -- 18,000 vehicles a day, state officials estimate -- traveling south from Pennsylvania each morning and heading home each evening.

Backups a mile long are not unusual, and surveys have estimated that 60 percent to 70 percent of vehicles passing through town bear Pennsylvania license plates, state and town officials have said.

State highway officials Robert L. Fisher, district engineer, and Cathy Romero, project engineer, bore the brunt of public wrath aimed at the governor, despite explaining that their goal was to provide information and not to discuss the merits of a bypass.

John Vey of Ebbvale Road urged area residents to call or write to make their opinions known to county and state politicians.

"You are trying to put a Band-Aid on a gaping wound," he told Fisher and Romero. "Pass the word up to the boss."

Several speakers, including Jim Richardson of York Street and Pat Wallman of Augusta Road, wanted SHA officials to extend Interstate 795 to the Pennsylvania line and not dump traffic from the planned Hampstead bypass back onto Route 30 south of Manchester.

Richardson questioned why a new Wal-Mart and a proposed housing development along Route 30 near Lineboro Road are Smart Growth, but a Manchester bypass is not.

Romero said those projects were approved before the Smart Growth Act took effect in October 1997.

Romero said SHA's decision on the proposed options to the bypass would be decided by the fall.

She acknowledged residents' comments and said she will meet with the town's working group to determine the best way to address the issues.

Romero said SHA engineers would definitely look at safety issues raised by several speakers.

David Black of Park Avenue asked if highway officials had looked at the number of fatal accidents north and south of the town limits.

Romero said none had occurred within the town limits for three years, but said planners did not look for the number of fatal accidents nearby.

"We will look at those numbers and take into consideration all of the comments we have heard before reaching any decisions," she said.

Romero said additional comment is welcome for the next several weeks and can be mailed to her at the Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering, State Highway Administration, Mail Stop C-301, 707 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21202.

Pub Date: 6/30/99

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