Proposals to improve Route 140 net crowd

Open presentation gains high marks

April 16, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

State officials seemed surprised by the turnout and the warm response to ideas for improving traffic flow and safety on Westminster's main artery, Route 140 -- proposals developed after plans for a bypass were shot down by the governor's Smart Growth initiatives.

At a recent open house, state, county and Westminster officials presented the ideas created in the 11 months since they joined with local residents, business people and others to form the Westminster Working Group. Their presentation included a video, charts and models.

The three-hour open house Wednesday at Henry C. Evans Armory on Hahn Road appeared to be a success from the outset, with more than 100 people at 5: 30 p.m. and nearly 200 as the evening wore on, with some trickling in toward the 8: 30 close.

The response of Lynn Bowen, a Westminster resident for 11 years, was typical. An accounting clerk in Finksburg, she travels the affected stretch of 140, from Route 97 North near the airport south to Leidy Road.

"I go through all these intersections," she said, looking at the charts. "I think it's great."

"I like the way it's presented, with lots of people to talk to, rather than a meeting where you're talked at. There's intelligent thought here -- something more than just `add another lane,' more of what we've got," Bowen said. "There's more thought, something that's different and not just the same old thing. I really, really like the way this meeting has been done."

Approach wins praise

Many others expressed similar appreciation, for the officials' coming and for their approach: asking what should happen rather than telling what will happen.

The video outlined four stages, including the work done to widen the road and add turn lanes, and planned work -- the widening of two bridges at Route 27 and Route 97 North in 2003.

After that, the options range from doing nothing to adding another through-lane to more exotic designs including underpasses, roundabouts and intersections based on variations of the compressed urban diamond interchange -- an interchange with short ramps rather than large loops of a cloverleaf.

Another option, the Texas U-turn, would provide access to businesses along the busy road while allowing through-traffic to keep moving.

The underpasses and U-turns met with approval; only roundabouts seemed to draw a thumbs-down.

Maria Gilligan, 77, of Snowden Manor off Bond Street has lived in Westminster since 1951. After studying the diagrams and a model of an underpass, she said, "It's scary, looking at all these fantastic roundabouts and the one that was a tunnel."

But she liked the ideas "because it would keep the through-traffic in one place and the local traffic would stay apart. I say it's scary, when I think I have grandchildren who'll just be getting their licenses in time to face this. I remember when you could go down 140 from Westminster to Reisterstown and hardly meet a car either way."

Man voices support

Nolan Penney, 36, moved to Lemon Road two years ago, after moving around Maryland quite a bit. An environmental engineer for the state Department of the Environment, he works in Dundalk and leaves at 5 a.m., in part to beat traffic.

"I like the improvements on 140," he said, pointing to the model of an underpass. "I live north of Westminster, so I have a vested interest in despising the bypass. 140 is being used as a run between us and Pennsylvania, and going on down to Baltimore and D.C. -- and that's why I think this will work," Penney said.

Karl Byers, who was born in Westminster in 1917 and lives by the Carroll County Agricultural Center, retired in 1981 after working for the telephone company and plane-builder Glenn L. Martin, and traveling all over the state.

"I like the demonstration on the one where the superhighway went underneath. That would reduce accidents," he said.

Ray Owings of John Owings Road said he likes to go to the Plum Crazy Diner but "it takes 20 minutes to go three miles into town. I like the Texas U-turns," but not roundabouts, he said.

Voices of opposition

A minority voice on that subject was Ralph Leckron, who said, "I do like traffic circles."

They and others questioned dozens of staff members from the State Highway Administration, Department of Transportation, Mass Transit Administration, SHA District Engineer's Office, and planners for the state, Carroll County and Westminster.

No money is budgeted for any of the proposals, some of which would require taking land along the road, the officials noted. Each of the three underpasses would cost from $20 million to $30 million, said Catherine Romero, project manager in the SHA's project planning division.

The Westminster Working Group began in May.

Environmental studies for the bypass were under way when it was killed in 1997, deemed contrary to Smart Growth policies implemented in October 1997.

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