County officials renew plea for bypass at Hampstead

State notes constraints of budget, urges patience

October 31, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

In their annual meeting with the Maryland Department of Transportation yesterday, Carroll officials lobbied hard for the Hampstead bypass, a road that has been in various planning stages for more than 40 years.

State highway officials called for patience and noted budget constraints that could further delay construction of the six-mile route, designed to alleviate congestion on Route 30, Hampstead's Main Street.

"If we had $1 million for every year we have waited, we could have this road built," said Republican Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of Carroll's legislative delegation. "The highway administration has plenty of money, they just don't want to spend it here."

Parker Williams, State Highway Administration administrator, said the project needs $8 million for additional rights of way and $37.5 million for construction.

"The state's fiscal condition is not the best, but we know this is a top priority for the county," Williams said. "We'll continue to work through the biological issues and designs so we are ready when it gets funded."

The biological issue is the tiny bog turtle, an endangered species whose habitat the planned route might affect. The 1-pound turtles have delayed design of the bypass for more than four years while the state conducted an environmental assessment.

The state has forwarded results of that study to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which also has concerns. The federal agency wants additional acreage as a buffer to the habitat and plans to address the possibility of toxic spills from trucks traveling the bypass.

"Right now, these are just issues, not hurdles," said Williams. "If we get bogged down with bog turtles, there are short-term improvements we can do."

Haines noted the highway to the new Redskins Stadium that was built without delay and despite environmental concerns.

"Carroll has had no major road construction for 35 years," he said. "Hampstead is a priority for us. We pay our fair share of taxes and we are entitled."

Republican Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale, who represents the central Carroll area, said the state continually refers to its revenue crunch when discussing the bypass. The subtle message is "if you vote for a tax increase, you will get a bypass," she said.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, also a Republican and Hampstead's mayor 20 years ago, remembered the state's promise of a bypass by 1990.

"This road is vital for Hampstead, Manchester, the whole county," said Gouge, who is seeking a fourth term as commissioner. "We have no place else to go. The slightest disruptions cause major backups. This is a major thoroughfare for truck traffic into Baltimore."

Three years ago, Gov. Parris N. Glendening scrapped bypasses for Westminster and Manchester, which he said would promote sprawl. State officials spoke of improvements to Route 140 through Westminster and Route 30 through Manchester.

"We got pacemakers, but we need bypasses," said Haines. "I don't want another pacemaker for Hampstead. I want a bypass."

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