Community voices opinions on relieving Route 140 traffic

Bypass remains popular, though it's not an option

Westminster

October 28, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

When they had the chance to express their opinions about how to alleviate traffic on Route 140, Carroll County residents objected in unison to state highway plans that would extensively alter the heavily traveled corridor, but they also agreed that commuters needed to be diverted from the road.

State highway officials presented several options Tuesday night to the 140 residents who attended the only public hearing on the Route 140 improvements. About 30,000 to 51,000 vehicles travel the road daily, but state highway officials said that could grow to 78,000 in 20 years.

"It takes me 20 minutes to travel three miles to get a haircut from my house," said Jerry O'Carroll, who has lived just outside Westminster off Route 27 for more than a decade. "I moved out here for the quality of life, and I see that going away."

The most popular option of the five presented Tuesday night would have minimal impact and include widening lanes, building 16-foot-wide bicycle lanes, 5-foot-wide sidewalks, pedestrian crosswalks, synchronizing signals and consolidating business entrances from the road. Only four businesses would be displaced under the option, which at $65 million to $75 million, was also the least costly of the five presented.

Carmeletta T. Harris, project manager of a three-year, $1.3 million state highway planning study on 2.5 miles of Route 140 between Market Street and Sullivan Road, said yesterday that residents objected strenuously to an option that calls for a through-highway built underneath elevated intersections that would provide access to local roads and businesses. This plan would be the most expensive, at $215 million to $230 million, and could displace as many as 29 businesses.

`Un-business-friendly'

Local business owners and members of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce vehemently opposed the option.

"This would take out a lot of income for a lot of families," said Barry Boston, owner of the Boston Inn on Route 140 for nearly 13 years. He told elected officials in the audience, "Stop spending our hard-earned tax dollars by being un-business-friendly. This would be money poorly spent. We would need a bypass anyhow."

Added Westminster resident Karen Donaldson: "A lot of small businesses might have to move outside the county so I can get through 20 seconds faster. It just seems extreme to be displacing that many businesses when the county has been trying to bring businesses in."

Backing for a bypass

Speakers repeatedly mentioned a Westminster bypass as one option they would support, even though the idea was scrapped year ago.

A bypass was dismissed by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening in 1999 because he said it conflicted with his Smart Growth anti-sprawl policy. But local officials have periodically revived the call for the measure. Only a week ago, Commissioner Dean L. Minnich championed a committee to revisit the proposal, even though it is not included in the county's master plan.

But officials said the estimated cost of a bypass - $250 million to $350 million - was an obstacle in the midst of other improvements needed throughout the burgeoning county. A bypass has been designed, and some of the land for it is set aside.

Mayor's input

Not only is a bypass included in the city's comprehensive plan, said Westminster Mayor Kevin E. Dayhoff, but, "We feel rather strongly that it is part of the long-term solution to transportation issues in Carroll County."

After the public hearing, Dayhoff said he sought to reassure business owners who felt threatened by his support of the through-highway. He said the city supports only one element of that option - a grade separation - at Route 97. The city, he said, thinks the solution lies in mixing and matching different elements of the options.

"They've worked for years to build those businesses, and we share those sensitivities," he said. "We want the maximum improvements to 140 which have minimum impact on business."

Residents told officials that they wanted a Westminster bypass because they said the problem lies with heavy commuter traffic.

"The only way to resolve traffic on Route 140 is to find some other place to put commuter traffic," said Ralph Peters, one of 22 people who spoke during the public hearing.

Peters, a math teacher at Randallstown High School, has lived on Pleasant Valley Road for 22 years.

"Somehow 140 became a commuter corridor. You need to split them off," he said. "Your plans are going to make things more comfortable, but at what cost?"

Other options

The three other options included: doing minimal upkeep, splitting depressed roadways to the westbound lanes, and creating left-turn bays separate from the main lanes at heavily congested stretches.

Harris said the turnout and feedback was an excellent way to gauge public sentiment as her team narrows down the options to one - which could be a combination of the plans - by spring. Written comments on the options will be accepted through Nov. 26.

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