Street changes cause concern

Residents living on MacBeth Way don't want road expansion

South Carroll

November 04, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Plans to alleviate traffic congestion on major roads in South Carroll, the county's most populated area, are running afoul of residents, who fear their side streets will become thruways.

Nearly 100 MacBeth Way residents barraged the county commissioners at a public hearing in Eldersburg on Monday with complaints about traffic volume and speeding on their street, which is one of several officials plan to make into connector roads for local motorists.

About 200 homes line both sides of MacBeth Way, a 3.25-mile road that nearly parallels Liberty Road, a state highway that is at the heart of Eldersburg. Building 900 more feet of MacBeth Way, a project in the county's 2000 budget, could create a major connector for residents traveling south of the highway known as Route 26.

"If you have a choice between five lights on Route 26 and MacBeth Way, you are going to take MacBeth," said Sheri Seitz, who lives along the county road. "Traffic is going to skyrocket when the connection goes through."

Traffic on Routes 26 and 32 is frequently snarled, and many intersections are officially rated as near failing because of delays and accidents. MacBeth and other long-planned connector roads could give motorists another option.

Residents have a preview of what traffic would be before MacBeth Way is extended from Brangles Road to Route 32. Nearly 3,000 cars a day use the road, and many disregard the posted 25 mph speed limit, according to the county's recent traffic counts.

Residents demanded that officials instigate immediate measures to deter speeding.

MacBeth Way is 50 feet wide, "basically four lanes and an invitation to speed," said J. Michael Evans, county director of public works. Residents called for speed traps and the construction of speed bumps. A few asked to borrow radar guns from state police.

The county is prepared to stripe the road, painting white parking lanes and a yellow center line. Officials might pay for increased police patrols and could possibly build the bumps in the spring.

"Striping is the only thing we can do quickly," said Evans. "It will make the road appear narrower."

Many said striping would give their road the look of a highway.

"It will no longer be a residential road," said Anthony Cirri, a MacBeth Way resident.

When Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge asked for a show of hands, nearly all wanted speed bumps, although few wanted them near their front yards.

Three months ago, the neighborhood delivered a petition calling for the traffic-calming devices to the commissioners.

Evans has heard several neighborhoods clamor for the bumps, which he once called "inverted pot holes." It costs as much as $3,000 to build each bump, usually an asphalt mound as wide as the road and about 4 inches above the surface.

Most at the meeting asked the commissioners to scrap plans to complete the road.

"People already fly through here to avoid the lights on Liberty Road," said Jeff Howard, who also lives on MacBeth Way. "You turned Route 26 into a highway, and now you are looking for a quick fix.

"People in this neighborhood don't want a connection," he added. " How can we solve this problem you are creating for us? Leave the road closed."

Another resident, Tim Boyer, said officials should consider the safety of children.

"We already have 3,000 cars a day with 500 of them speeding," he said. "How good an idea is it to turn this road into a bypass?"

About 17 connector roads have been on the county's master plan for South Carroll since 1977. In the past 22 years, the population has doubled to more than 28,000, but none of those roads has been built. Several, including MacBeth Way, are a construction priority.

"Volume will increase once this road connects," said Evans. "But speed does not have to."

Gouge said she recognized the anger in the audience and she frequently had to call the disruptive meeting to order.

"We have to work for the good of all the people," she said. "To say we are not going to build a connector road would be wrong. It is in the master plan, and we have to look at the long-range effect on other roads."

Evans said he will ask the commissioners to make a decision on striping as soon as possible. If the weather holds, crews could paint MacBeth Way in about one day.

"If this doesn't work, all it takes is a can of black paint to get rid of the stripes," he said.

Painting lines will not be nearly enough to solve the problem, residents said.

"Whatever you do now means nothing when you open the road all the way," said resident Rita Mellon.

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