Improvements eyed for Liberty Road alternative

First of three phases might begin next year

August 02, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

For years, Carroll County has considered improvements to Obrecht Road as a way to ease traffic congestion in Eldersburg. Funding for the project has often been delayed, and construction has been a source of contention for county officials.

Obrecht Road, which runs from Route 97 east to Route 32, could be an alternative for commuters who are clogging Liberty Road, the main thoroughfare through Eldersburg, while en route to Route 32 and Interstate 70. But Obrecht Road is a winding road, with poor sight distance and a difficult entrance at Route 32.

Now improvements are again budgeted, and construction could begin next year. The county has included nearly $1.2 million in its capital improvements budget to start work from Route 97 to White Rock Road, the first of three phases of the project.

But one resident who has long worked for improvements on Obrecht Road said the county is tackling the wrong end.

"You have to do the connection to Route 32 first," said Vince DiPietro of Sykesville. "If you do the Route 97 connection first, you are inviting traffic to come crashing through a residential area."

Near Sykesville, Obrecht becomes Third Avenue. Traffic bound for Route 32 must go through town or take Springfield Avenue to the highway. In response to community concerns, the state erected a temporary traffic signal at Springfield and Route 32 two years ago. But motorists experience long delays at peak hours.

DiPietro fears more traffic in town and more speeding, if the county improves the west end of Obrecht first.

"You will be bringing 40 mph traffic into town, where it is 25 mph," he said.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said although planners favored building a Route 32 connection initially, the county decided to work on "the end of least resistance first."

The closer the road gets to Route 32, the more complex the design becomes and the more involved the right of way issue.

"The Route 97 end is a lot easier to deal with from an engineering standpoint," said J. Michael Evans, county director of public works.

Given the county's history of not following through with plans for Obrecht Road, DiPietro fears one end will be fixed but not the other. The improved road would attract more eastbound traffic and more congestion at Route 32.

Right of way issus

Engineering plans are so old -- more than a decade -- that they have to be reworked, county officials said.

"We probably cannot do this road design in-house," said Evans. "We also have to resolve right of way issues with Fairhaven."

Fairhaven Retirement Community, home to about 500 residents and one of the largest employers in the county, will have to grant the county an easement before a new entrance to Route 32 can be built across the northern end of the property. Negotiations for a right-of-way have been arduous, but the county has agreed to try again, officials said.

"Fairhaven has always emphasized an entrance from Third Avenue, rather than the one we planned," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "There has seemed no way to come together. This has always been a matter of getting everybody to agree."

Seeks support

DiPietro said he will continue to work for improvements at Route 32 first. He would like to organize a citizens group to back his plan.

He has little confidence that Obrecht Road will be rebuilt soon. It has been budgeted before and funding was diverted to other projects, he said.

"I am going to be in the ground before this road gets built," he said. "But, when it is done, I want them to bury me there and say this is the man who built this road."

Pub Date: 8/02/99

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