Residents call `connector' roads unsafe

Plan was meant to ease traffic on Routes 32, 26

It may be outdated, official says

Meeting set to discuss extending smaller roads

Eldersburg

November 12, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

South Carroll residents are criticizing as unsafe and impractical a 25-year-old plan to use "connector" roads to ease traffic congestion in the county's most heavily populated area.

The proposed roads, which would run parallel to Routes 26 or 32, Eldersburg's major arteries, could increase traffic in their neighborhoods, draw commercial vehicles onto residential streets and threaten the safety of children, residents said.

The Freedom Area Citizens' Council has organized a discussion with the county commissioners and their planning staff on the issue of connector roads tomorrow night in Eldersburg.

Many residents would like the county to abandon plans to connect MacBeth Way from Route 32 east to Brangles Road and possibly as far east as Marriottsville Road. The design would keep some local traffic off Route 26.

"The impression I get from most of my neighbors is that most people are opposed to having the connections go through," said Nicole Musgrave-Burdette of Hilltop Estates, where many courts and cul-de-sacs empty onto MacBeth Way. "They don't want the increase in traffic, the speeding and the trucks."

Residents of the many subdivisions along MacBeth Way are opposed to any extension of the road, she said.

"A lot of people don't see any reason why MacBeth should go all the way through," Musgrave-Burdette said. "I am hoping they have alternatives to offer the commissioners."

The residents may have support from Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.

"I have serious reservations that we have an outdated design for MacBeth Way," Minnich said. "If we had built it 30 years ago, it might be viable, but now with the amount of traffic on Route 32, I am not sure. Plans have to change as needs change."

Nearly 60 percent of Carroll's labor force commutes daily to jobs outside the county. Route 32 provides South Carroll residents the easiest access to interstates 70 and 95 in Howard County.

Residents also are questioning the wisdom of two other proposed connector roads north of Route 26. The county plans to extend Georgetown Boulevard north and parallel to Route 32 through the Eldersburg Business Center to Bennett Road. Plans also call for building Monroe Avenue, which now ends at Oklahoma Road, across Bennett Road and then west to Route 32.

"I am not opposed to connector roads," said Catherine Dodson of Bennett Road. "I knew when I bought my home here the roads would be coming. Our neighborhood is asking that the county reconsider the connections. Some are totally inconsistent with a residential area."

Residents of several subdivisions along Bennett Road would like Georgetown Boulevard extended only to Progress Way, Dodson said. That would force the tractor-trailers to use Progress Way, not Bennett Road, to reach the bigger highway.

"We don't want commercial traffic funneled through a residential area," Dodson said.

Residents favor the plan to connect Monroe Avenue to Bennett Road, but balk at extending that connection farther to Route 32 near Freedom Elementary School, she said.

"These are supposed to be connector roads for the neighborhoods and to make it easier for emergency vehicles," Dodson said. "These roads should not have to handle heavy commuter traffic from the highways. The county and state should fix the highways rather than ruin neighborhoods."

County officials met Monday with state transportation leaders to discuss possible safety improvements, including limiting access, to Route 32. Neil J. Pedersen, state highway administrator, said he would look into the problems along the highway.

The state has also designed a widened Route 26 with service roads to area businesses, but the estimated $20 million plan has not been funded. The issue of highway congestion in Carroll County is also on the agenda for the commissioners' annual meeting with the Maryland Department of Transportation today in Westminster.

Ross Dangel, chairman of the Freedom council, said the group is not taking a position on the issue. He hopes the meeting will help residents understand the need for the connections and possibly find alternatives to those they find objectionable.

"We have state roads failing with logjams of traffic and no commitment from the state to make improvements," Dangel said. "Our big goal is to raise awareness that connector roads can benefit everybody. But, we have to weigh all the impacts. It makes no sense to divert commercial traffic through neighborhoods. We want the county to consider alternatives offered by those most affected by these roads."

Minnich said he is willing to listen, but is certain the county cannot make everyone happy.

"We have to have some means of getting people around their communities," he said. "There is a lot of discussion left to be done and tough choices to be made."

The meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Freedom Christian Center in Carrolltown Center in Eldersburg. Information: 410-795-2896.

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