Officials discuss highway safety

Transportation secretary meets with local leaders

Route 32 improvements sought

Widening road, limitation of access among ideas

Carroll County

November 11, 2003|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Carroll leaders met with the state transportation secretary yesterday to recommend improvements to Route 32 between Eldersburg and the Howard County line, a stretch of road they say has become congested and unsafe.

They suggested reducing the number of access points to the road, reshaping some intersections, adding a traffic signal at the intersection with Macbeth Way and studying the road's accident history to diagnose trouble spots.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said he was concerned about safety hazards on Route 32.

"Certainly, it's as dramatic an example as any of the need for safety improvements we have around the state," he said.

He and fellow transportation officials offered no immediate solutions but said they would consider the county's recommendations.

Flanagan also said the state would eventually add a lane to each side of Route 32, although highway officials have yet to offer a cost projection or time frame for such a project.

After hearing the county's suggestions for short-term road improvements, State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said, "My reaction to all of these is that they're worthy of us looking into them."

Del. Susan W. Krebs, a Republican who represents South Carroll, said she asked for the meeting because she constantly hears from constituents how unsafe Route 32 has become. Krebs did not offer specific accident statistics but noted that on Friday night a 21-year-old man died after crashing into a telephone pole near Route 32 and Liberty Road.

"We need to do something about the safety concerns," Krebs said. "This is the most important thing in my district, and not just among road projects."

Howard County leaders have expressed similar concerns and want Route 32 widened on their side of the border.

Krebs and officials from the county and the town of Sykesville said the state could make Route 32 safer by reducing the number of points at which individual homes and businesses feed cars directly onto the road. The state could reduce such "access points" by building service roads and routing commercial and residential traffic first onto those roads and then onto Route 32, county leaders said.

But Pedersen said state officials have limited ability to take away existing access. He said the state could limit access points for future businesses built along the road. He said the state might also be able to force existing businesses to change their access points from the main road to service routes when it adds lanes to Route 32.

He said the key to either plan would be support from county leaders.

"Property owners don't like it when we do that," he said of taking away access to roads. "And the first thing they do is appeal to their elected officials."

The county commissioners, who also attended the meeting, assured Pedersen that they would support any efforts to improve safety along the road.

"I think we've shown in Carroll County that we will put the will of the county commissioners behind plans that offend developers," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.

Beyond safety concerns, the commissioners have said they want to see better traffic flow on Route 32 because the road is one of the county's main connectors to Interstate 70, and they can't market Carroll to major industries without better commuter lines to the interstate. Building the county's industrial tax base is one of the commissioners' major goals.

Flanagan is scheduled to be in Carroll tomorrow afternoon to talk further about the county's road priorities, which also include a Route 30 bypass of Hampstead.

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