While state planners look into the next millennium for improvements to Route 140, relief is at hand for one intersection along the congested artery.
J. Michael Evans, Carroll County's director of public works, said the extension of Ralph Street from Route 140 to Greenwood Avenue could be ready by Christmas.
"It's possible, depending on the weather," Evans said. The project, which was expected to be done in the spring, has moved ahead of schedule.
A small road at 0.2 miles, the Ralph Street extension will provide direct access to county government and school offices, the courthouses and jail.
That means less backup for the left-turn lane at Center Street, Evans said.
"It will mean two ways in and out, as opposed to just Center Street. It will be a big help to the Board of Education and to the court systems, because one of the big backups is people waiting to turn left onto Center. It will give this left-turning traffic easier access to Westminster."
Crews have completed the hardest part of the $1 million project: rebuilding the landscape, with a large culvert for Longwell Branch, and compacting fill dirt in layers to make the roadway adapt to a 30-foot drop in elevation from Route 140 to Greenwood, he said.
Pipe work and fill to build up the road are almost complete, and then curbs and blacktop will be tackled.