County due $126 million for highway projects

State's six-year program to fund Hampstead's bypass, Route 140 fixes

October 18, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | By Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Over the next six years, Carroll County will receive $126 million in state money for highway and other improvements, including the long-awaited Hampstead bypass and the reconstruction of Route 140 bridges.

The Maryland Department of Transportation unveiled its six-year program for the county yesterday, detailing "an unprecedented level" of highway, aviation and mass transit improvements, said Gregory Pecoraro, assistant secretary of transportation.

For the next fiscal year, construction will begin on 12 projects totaling more than $24 million. The projects include engineering and land acquisition for the long-promised Hampstead bypass.

The Hampstead bypass, a $40 million, nearly six-mile route, would ease congestion on the town's Main Street. The state is working through environmental and design issues and has completed about 50 percent of the engineering work necessary to protect wetlands.

"We are moving along," said Parker F. Williams, administrator of the State Highway Administration. "There are still issues to resolve, but we are there."

Carroll also will receive $5 million for a general aviation study that will look at expanding its terminal at Carroll County Regional Airport outside Westminster, pay for snow removal and complete an environmental study.

Many long-planned projects such as the reconstruction of bridges along Route 140 in Westminster and streetscapes in several towns should be completed within the next few years.

"We are being cautious about the budgeting cycle and only starting a few new projects, rather than have to break promises later," said Pecoraro.

The state will spend $4.3 million to widen two intersections and create a better streetscape on Route 30 in Manchester, a town whose bypass was scrapped three years ago, when Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the bypass would promote sprawl.

Westminster lost its bypass for the same reason. Traffic exceeds 55,000 vehicles a day on Route 140 through the county seat. State officials said yesterday they have undertaken a $1 million study to consider interchanges at three intersections along that stretch of highway - at Route 97 south, Center Street and Englar Road. Construction could cost up to $30 million per interchange.

"This could allow traffic on 140 to move without impediment, but it is very expensive and used only in high-volume areas," said Williams. "It won't be easy. There is a lot of commercial development we have to consider."

The state and county shared the $400,000 cost of a study of a Route 26 corridor in Eldersburg looking at ways to improve safety, aesthetics and circulation. Those improvements could cost up to $25 million. A public hearing on several alternatives is set for Nov. 6 in Eldersburg .

The visit also was an opportunity to plug the governor's program to double transit ridership by 2020. Carroll will receive more than $100,000 for mass transit improvements, including three new vehicles for Carroll Transit, the county's only public transportation system.

"Here we would like to triple" ridership, said Virginia White, acting administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration. "Last year, Carroll had about 100,000 on its system."

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge asked MTA to consider a shuttle service from Eldersburg to the Owings Mills Metro Station. MTA could launch a grass-roots program to determine need for limited public transportation in South Carroll, said White.

"A number of people have approached me about ways to eliminate cars from the road in South Carroll," said Gouge. "I would like MTA to hold a meeting in Eldersburg."

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