State shifts bypass for Hampstead

Town residents get first look at latest proposal for route

Some predict snarls

Switch may cause man to give up his cattle farm

September 06, 2001|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

The bog turtle is no friend to Lee Walsh. Because of concerns that a proposed Route 30 bypass around Hampstead would harm the endangered turtle's habitat, the State Highway Administration has shifted the proposed route to the west, deep into Walsh's 115-acre cattle farm.

Walsh estimated he would lose about 50 acres if the bypass takes this planned course and that it would be a grave blow to his business, he said. "I'd probably be done."

He figures the best he can hope for now is a good deal on his land from the state.

Walsh was one of a steady stream of Hampstead-area residents who got their first look yesterday at the highway administration's plans for the long-awaited bypass. Few had concerns as dramatic as Walsh's, but many offered criticisms to the highway officials standing by to answer questions.

The bypass is slated to run between Wolf Hill Drive on its south end and Brodbeck Road on its north end. Although it is intended to reduce traffic through Hampstead, it will cause back-ups on either end, many said.

Jeff Chenoweth and Joe Ostendorf live on Eagle Ridge Court, just north of Brodbeck Road, and they seem sure the bypass will snarl traffic on their street. Shoppers heading for Weis Market and other stores will use Eagle Ridge instead of Route 30 to avoid the proposed traffic circle that would feed the bypass, the men said.

Traffic will bypass Hampstead only to bottleneck outside Manchester, others said. Many said the new road would help no one but commuters who use Route 30 to reach the Baltimore area every morning.

The bypass has been on the table in one form or another for more than 30 years, and Hampstead officials have eagerly heralded it as the key to a more pleasant downtown.

The state went through the standard preliminary planning for the road between 1989 and 1997 only to have the process halted by the bog turtle's descent to the endangered species list.

After three years of biological testing, however, the state has received permission to recommence planning, though the federal government probably won't give final environmental approval until next year. Should that approval come and should the state fund the right-of-way costs and $28.8 million construction budget, building could start as soon as summer 2003 and finish as soon as summer 2005.

As configured, the road would displace a residence, a rental home, an abandoned gas station, a salvage yard and 141 acres of agricultural land. Highway officials estimate that where 21,750 cars passed through Hampstead on an average day in 2000, about 8,750 a day would pass through with the bypass in place.

Highway officials said they'd examine concerns expressed yesterday and meet with area residents again next spring.

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