Officials OK traffic study at building site

Engineers' analysis will help fine-tune plans for high school

$13,955 cost to taxpayers

But road construction might skew results, commissioners agree

January 21, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The county commissioners gave the green light yesterday to a traffic study that will help school officials fine-tune site plans for a new Westminster high school to ensure safe access.

The study will be conducted by Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani, LLP, a Baltimore engineering and planning firm that is working with the school board on plans for the school, which will be adjacent to Cranberry Station Elementary.

The traffic analysis -- which will assess the need for traffic signals, stop signs and lane expansions -- is expected to take about 60 days and will cost county taxpayers $13,955.

Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Donald I. Dell agreed to the study after wondering aloud whether it was practical to move forward with an analysis of the area. They noted that Center Street, one of the main roads near the site, is under construction. The road is being extended to Gorsuch Road.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge didn't attend the meeting.

"I understand why you want this information, but I'm not sure how good a guess they'll be able to make as far as the impact" of Center Street, Frazier said. "We'll see what they come up with and then decide how much weight to give it. We may end up designing [the site] by common sense anyway."

County Planning Director Steven D. Powell had asked for the study to resolve several issues concerning traffic at the site. Powell questioned what kind of traffic devices would be needed and whether Gorsuch Road would have to be expanded.

He said planners need to know whether road improvements would be required at four nearby intersections before they can draft site plans for the school.

"We may have to push the building back further if improvements are needed," Powell told the commissioners.

Construction of a 1,200-student high school has been planned for several years to ease crowding at Westminster High School, one of the state's largest schools with more than 2,000 students.

Last month, the commissioners rushed to approve one of four design proposals for the school. The winning proposal had the fewest changes from the school's original design, which was projected to cost $38 million.

The amended plan includes a football stadium but less practice space for athletic teams.

School officials are expediting the $35.4 million project in hopes the school will open on time, in fall 2002. They are seeking state support.

Choosing a location for the school caused heated debate among the commissioners. Frazier strongly favored building on farmland north of the city, insisting it would be a safer location.

She urged her colleagues to hold off on a final decision until that site could be studied further, even if it meant delaying the school's opening.

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