Town Council backs bypass of Route 30

State saw 1979 rejection as official municipal stand

Manchester

October 22, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

At Manchester's monthly town meetings, Mayor Christopher B. D'Amario and the five council members rarely miss a chance to voice their desire for the state to build a bypass around the town, no matter how tangential to the matter at hand.

So the mayor was "flabbergasted" when state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan recently asked whether the town was sticking to a position opposing a bypass.

It seems that state highway officials' files contained what they considered the town's most recent official word on the issue - a no vote by the Manchester council more than two decades ago.

Now, Manchester officials are taking steps to update their formal position on a bypass - and to be included in talks about state road projects for Carroll County.

With a Republican in the governor's office, there's a renewed push for road relief in Carroll.

County officials are affirming their support for improvements to relieve congestion on Route 26 in Eldersburg, and they're talking with state officials about the possibility of millions of dollars of road work on Route 140 in Westminster.

Some business leaders and elected officials are talking about reviving a proposal for a Westminster bypass. And officials in Hampstead say that long-stalled plans for a bypass around their town might be pushed forward with a plan to make the highway a toll road.

But some argue that it makes little sense to build a road that bypasses only Hampstead before returning northbound motorists to Route 30, 1.3 miles south of the Manchester town line.

"We're going to dump all that traffic back on [Route] 30 again, and they'll have to go through Manchester," said County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, a former Hampstead mayor.

Daily traffic counts average more than 18,000 in Manchester and more than 20,000 in Hampstead, officials say.

State Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of Carroll County's all-Republican legislative delegation, said the ideal solution might be one long bypass of Route 30, from Interstate 795 at the Baltimore County line to Hanover, Pa., built as an interstate highway and eligible for federal funding.

Gouge said a plan dating to the 1950s was similar to that idea. "It got shorter and shorter and shorter," she said, and more development began to dot two-lane Route 30 - the Hanover Pike - built in 1807 as a toll road.

Although the state has bought land west of Hampstead for a planned $48 million 6-mile bypass, there's no line for a Manchester bypass on the state's planning maps. As originally envisioned, one long route would have bypassed both towns on the west, state and county officials said.

But it was rejected by Manchester officials in 1979 because the town's springs and a well lay in its path, and some residents and merchants objected to the planned route, said two former Manchester mayors. Now there are several housing developments on the west side.

But since 1979, the town's population has nearly doubled to 3,300. Residents and merchants seem united in the hope for a bypass east of town - tying in to form a reverse-S with Hampstead's west-side bypass - following a route that is on the county planning maps, officials said.

"Our businesses are local," said Councilwoman Mary E. Minderlein, liaison to the Manchester Area Merchants Association. "Now, they know they are losing business because the town is so congested."

The merchants are also concerned about the possible loss of parking spaces under the recently begun Main Street revitalization, Minderlein said.

That project was a "consolation prize" from the State Highway Administration for losing the bypass, said D'Amario, who has made it plain that the $4.2-million street improvement and beautification is welcome, but that getting the bypass is still the town's goal.

D'Amario said he went to Annapolis in 1999 to try to persuade then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening to support a bypass for Manchester. The state Board of Public Works had voted 2-1 for a Manchester bypass - but that one no vote belonged to Glendening, who refused to fund the project, viewing it as counter to his Smart Growth anti-sprawl initiative.

Some planning money had been spent on the Manchester bypass by then, when its estimated cost was $70 million.

When D'Amario ran for a second term as mayor in May, he and the town council candidates vowed to try again with the new governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

When Flanagan, the transportation secretary, visited Manchester and other areas of Carroll last month, he told D'Amario that the State Highway Administration's records showed the town to be against a bypass because of the 1979 vote.

So D'Amario decided to clarify the town's position. He put the matter before the council.

The discussion was brief, the council vote unanimous.

Although the proposed bypass for Hampstead has been described as No. 1 on county officials' wish list of road projects, officials are optimistic that the Manchester bypass might also be built.

"Once Hampstead is built, it's almost inevitable that Manchester will be built, too," Haines said.

Flanagan said that while money remains tight for highway projects, the philosophy in Annapolis has changed, adding, "We are very serious about going forward with both bypasses."

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