County to study city's road systems plan

Commissioners offer initial impressions

Changes to occur over 2 decades

Blueprint targets traffic on busy state highways

February 05, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

After getting their first look at a blueprint for road systems in and around Westminster yesterday, the Carroll County commissioners said they would study the plan and discuss concerns that it raises at a future meeting.

The commissioners offered a few initial impressions -concerns about the effect of road building on the city's water supply and the safety of planned hiking trails.

"Can we get any assurances that there will be police on hiker-biker trails in the evenings?" Commissioner Dean L. Minnich asked. "Can we have police on bike patrol so we don't have predators setting up camp on these trails?"

Westminster town planner Shawn Siders said the city should be able to assign police officers to the trails. He said development of the trails is a priority for Westminster officials, who would consider the county's suggestions for them.

The commissioners said they would address the plan, which outlines changes that would take place during the next two decades, in more detail at a meeting with county planners. No date was set for the meeting.

Planners from the county and Westminster, with engineers from a county-hired consulting firm, met with the commissioners yesterday to go over what is dubbed the transportation element of the Westminster Environs Community Comprehensive Plan.

The transportation portion of the plan includes several road realignments, reconstructions and extensions designed to alleviate traffic on the Westminster area's burdened state highways, Routes 140, 97 and 27.

The transportation section had to be reworked after the state eliminated in January 1999 a proposed Westminster bypass that would have diverted traffic from Route 140.

That year, the county engaged the services of Whitney, Bailey, Cox and Magnani, an engineering firm, to develop a transportation study concentrating on the streets and roads in and around Westminster. After two years, the firm offered recommendations that were incorporated into a draft of the transportation section of the Comprehensive Plan for Westminster.

In November, the county Department of Planning met with the commissioners seeking approval for the transportation section.

The request was made after a series of public hearings and workshops last year. The plan was approved by the county Planning Commission.

But former Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Donald I. Dell, on their last day on the job in late November, chose to let the newly elected board members consider the plan.

Commissioners Minnich and Perry L. Jones Jr., who took office in December, received their first look at the plan yesterday. The third commissioner, Julia Walsh Gouge, is serving her fourth term.

Much of the plan focuses on road realignments and extensions that would give area residents more options for local travel and avoiding main thoroughfares.

The plan also includes an update of the airport master plan, which Steven C. Horn, director of the county planning department, said was fertile ground for economic development.

The plan recommends that more than $11 million in work, to be paid for by the county and by developers, be included in county capital budgets by 2008. Those projects include an extension of Bennett Cerf Drive that would connect Manchester Road (Route 27) and Littlestown Pike (Route 97), an extension of Malcolm Drive that would connect Market Street to Gorsuch Road and a realignment of Arnold Road.

Projects recommended for funding by 2021 include an extension of Malcolm Drive to connect Gorsuch Road to Route 27 and an extension of Leidy Road, while extensions or realignments of Morningstar Way, Pleasant Valley Road, Rockland Road and connections in the Chandler Drive neighborhood would be pursued after 2022.

The plan recommends that the county seek payment from developers for realignments of Lemmon and Meadow Branch roads, and that the county seek state money to widen sections of Routes 140 and 97.

Westminster officials have expressed concern that the Bennett Cerf Drive extension would be built near a branch of the Patapsco River that feeds the city's water supply. Minnich said he wants assurances that the water supply would remain unaffected.

Minnich also had questions about plans for a network of hiking and biking trails to link schools, parks, neighborhoods and other centers of activity.

"Philosophically, I love the idea of hiker-biker trails but they can be magnets for people with perverse tastes," he said. "Maybe I'm just overreacting here, but we're setting up an environment, an ambience of a place where families can go jogging and biking. We have to be able to meet the expectations of security and think about the cost of patrolling. I love Central Park in New York - in the daytime."

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