Public to see road plans

Revised Route 26 improvement ideas to be revealed today

`Narrowed our scope'

Comment is sought

consensus on one of six options hoped

Carroll County

November 06, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

South Carroll residents will have an opportunity today to review and comment on six possible plans for improving Route 26, the state highway that serves as the main street of Eldersburg.

The State Highway Administration and federal highway officials will discuss proposed changes that are designed to improve safety, enhance the appearance and deter local traffic on a one-mile stretch of the highway from Route 32 east to Liberty Reservoir at a public hearing from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Oklahoma Road Middle School in Eldersburg.

Preliminary estimates for the five of the plans range from $17 million to $23 million. A sixth option would be to make no improvements.

Funding for any improvements would be from gas tax revenues and the state's transportation budget. Carroll County has pledged about $2 million to the effort.

The improvement plans to be presented today stem from the work of a group of residents and state and county officials, a committee that worked nearly two years to devise possible improvements to Route 26, also known as Liberty Road. The state and Carroll County shared the $400,000 cost of the study.

Up to 37,500 vehicles, many driven by commuters, travel daily along the highway. The population of Eldersburg, Carroll's fastest-growing area, has tripled to 30,000 in a little more than 20 years and work on area roads has not kept pace. The intersection of Routes 26 and 32 - Liberty and Sykesville roads - is one of the busiest and most accident-prone in the county.

In a workshop last spring that drew about 100 people, the state learned that residents want Liberty Road widened, with right-turn lanes and parallel service roads providing access to area businesses.

They asked for a landscaped median, bike paths, sidewalks and as much greenery as possible. Aesthetics, they said, are important to the road that defines Eldersburg's downtown.

The state has refined its improvement plans based on the wish list and will present them this evening.

Residents can review maps of each of five plans starting at 5:30 p.m. A formal presentation, including a slide show, will begin at 7 p.m. The rest of the evening will be devoted to public comment.

The design work does not include the bridge over Liberty Reservoir.

"We have narrowed our scope since the spring workshop and are more focused now," said David Buck, SHA spokesman.

The state's idea is to reach a consensus and pare its ideas to one plan, said Buck.

The record will remain open for 30 days to give people unable to attend the hearing a chance to comment.

"The next milestone will come sometime in late spring of 2002 when we choose an alternative," Buck said.

While Carroll's financial contribution to the effort will be relatively small, the county wants assurances that the ultimate proposal is the one residents want, said Jeanne Joiner, Carroll's director of planning.

"We want the community to be comfortable with the state's choice for Route 26," Joiner said. "They will have to live with it."

Oklahoma Road Middle School is at 6300 Oklahoma Road, Eldersburg. Information: 1-800-323-6742.

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