State studies plans to improve Route 140

Funding not yet secured for traffic-easing project

March 26, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

As state highway officials move forward on finalizing plans for improving Route 140, funding for the project's construction has not yet been secured, state officials said.

The State Highway Administration is considering four options as part of a $1 million study to alleviate traffic on Carroll County's main business corridor. In the fall, state highway officials are scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed alternatives before they choose one early next year.

In the meantime, state highway officials will prepare an assessment on the environmental and socioeconomic impact the proposed options would have on surrounding areas and businesses.

The project's plans are expected to be completed in the fall of next year.

"At that point, the project would be sitting and ready for funding," said Raja Veeramachaneni, director of SHA's Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering.

At a meeting Wednesday, Veeramachaneni and other state highway managers updated Westminster officials and the county commissioners on the progress of the study, which examined a 2.5-mile stretch of Route 140 that runs through Westminster.

Although the project has not been funded, county chief of staff Steven D. Powell noted that the General Assembly is working on finding additional revenue sources to replenish the state's depleted Transportation Trust Fund.

Last week, the House of Delegates voted to increase vehicle registration fees to pay for transportation projects.

"It's an encouragement," Powell said. "I would not go further than that."

For decades, the road's future has been debated in the county. A proposed Westminster bypass lost support when it was removed from state plans in 1999 because of former Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth agenda.

The state formed a task force of county officials and residents to develop options to accommodate the growing traffic on Route 140, focusing on the busy intersections of Malcolm Drive, Englar Road and Center Street in Westminster.

Last year, state officials narrowed a list of six possible plans to four. They are:

The state would make no major improvements and spend little more than standard maintenance money on the road.

The state would build several new turn lanes, eliminate some business entrances onto the road and add sidewalks. This proposal is projected to cost between $65 million to $70 million.

Option three, projected to cost between $220 million and $230 million, would be the most radical. The state would lower the existing highway and turn it into a through-road that would run under elevated intersections at Englar Road, Center Street and Malcolm Drive.

Under option four, projected to cost between $170 million and $180 million, the state would keep westbound Route 140 much the same as it is now but would lower the eastbound side, which is more heavily traveled, and run it under the same three intersections.

County and Westminster officials have yet to endorse a plan, although they've expressed concerns in the past about the last two options, which they said would change the character of Westminster.

Officials said they would work together in the coming months to agree on an option before the public hearing in the fall.

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