Commissioners approve building road, rail spur

$5.5 million plan to divert Union Bridge truck traffic

March 28, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County commissioners approved yesterday a $5.5 million road-and-rail construction project that will divert heavy truck traffic from downtown Union Bridge once Lehigh Portland Cement Co.'s $265 million expansion is completed.

Acting on a recommendation from the county planning commission, the board unanimously voted to move forward with construction of Shepherd's Mill Road, a 6,500-foot segment that will intersect Route 75 east of town. The road and a parallel railroad spur will become part of the comprehensive plan for growth in the town, which is Carroll's smallest.

"The plan is to relieve all heavy traffic in Union Bridge," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier.

The town has worked for more than a decade to get trucks off its Main Street, where cumbersome tractor-trailers often pass within feet of downtown buildings.

Lehigh, which dominates the southern end of town, is building an entrance onto Quaker Hill Road as part of its expansion. Eastbound vehicles will take Quaker Hill Road to Shepherd's Mill Road and then onto Route 75.

"Most of the truck traffic is traveling east to Route 75 and we have to get it off Main Street," said Steven C. Horn, county director of planning. "It is more efficient to make the new road intersect with the town's industrial zone."

The rail spur to the Maryland Midland Railway line will remove freight trains from downtown. Tracks that line Farquhar Street will no longer be used.

"The rail line will facilitate the movement of materials to and from the Lehigh plant," Horn said.

The state has pledged $3.5 million toward the project, with the remaining costs borne by the county and private industry.

During a well-attended public hearing in Union Bridge last month, residents raised a few objections to the project. But the planning commission did not receive letters opposing the road before approving it last week.

The state has made a traffic analysis a requirement of its participation in the construction. The county has paid a consultant about $1,400 to study the intersection of Shepherd's Mill Road at the bridge over Little Pipe Creek.

In other action yesterday, the commissioners withheld funding approval for Southwestern Boulevard, a proposed connector road to Route 30 south of Manchester.

"We will not participate in the cost of building this road at the present time," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell, adding he would reconsider if the possibility of reimbursement of costs arose from the town or a developer.

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