Sykesville considers seeking ownership of road

Officials may ask state for control of Main Street

Regional News

May 01, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Main Street in Sykesville is lined with shops, businesses and restaurants. But the town has little control over the downtown street, a state-owned highway known as Route 851.

Ownership could give the town authority to schedule a festival or fill potholes along its main thoroughfare. The town will take the initial steps toward making Main Street a municipal road at a public hearing May 8 with the State Highway Administration.

"Complete ownership gives the town more independence and is sometimes more conducive to the business of town," said Laura Rakowski, spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration. "If they want to have a parade or need access permits, they are free to act without state authorization."

The town has created a downtown revitalization plan, which includes landscaping, lighting and sidewalks -- all of which would require state permits. Several improvements have been made to side streets and alleys leading to downtown, but the town has not begun work on Main Street.

"Everyone would like to see Main Street improved," said Matthew H. Candland, town manager. "But, right now, we can't make any improvements in state right-of- way without their permission."

Candland describes town officials as open-minded but cautious about the transfer of the road deed. Several other towns have completed similar transfers, including Westminster, where Route 32 is Main Street.

"We do road transfers all the time," said David Buck, SHA spokesman. "Often development has occurred that is really better served by the local jurisdiction. The real question is, `Who is better equipped to maintain the road?' "

Ownership would make the town responsible for maintenance, repairs and plowing. The town maintenance department could clear the road of snow more quickly than state crews. But the town has not determined what plowing and maintaining the mile stretch would cost annually.

"We are at the very beginning of this process," Candland said. "We have to decide if the benefits outweigh the costs."

The transfer would include a mile segment of the road from the bridge spanning the Patapsco River north to the intersection of Springfield Avenue and Route 32. Route 851 veers off Main Street at Springfield Avenue and continues along Springfield until Route 32 near Fairhaven Retirement Community.

"The state is much more interested in Route 32 than it is in Route 851," Candland said. "They would probably like to get rid of 851. It does not mean anything to them."

The process will begin when the state initiates a neighborhood conservation study, Rakowski said.

"We go in with our planners, do landscaping, make basic traffic improvements and sometimes road reconstruction," she said. "Then, we turn it over to the town. It is a trade-off. We give them a better-looking roadway to maintain."

The state is completing a similar project on East Patrick Street in Frederick and will soon turn that road over to the city, she said.

"This is not a long process, but there is a lot of paperwork involved," Rakowski said.

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