Panel set to consider need for a bypass

Group to assess impact, recommend path, design of Route 140 alternative

Westminster

November 24, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A blue-ribbon panel will decide whether Westminster needs a $250 million bypass that would give motorists an alternative to Route 140.

The Carroll County commissioners voted yesterday to create a 13-member committee of state, county and city officials, business leaders, planners and residents. The advisory committee also would recommend a route, consider tolls to help pay for the project and research the impact on businesses and residents.

"They are charged with answering questions on the need for a bypass, where it would be and what it would look like," said Steven C. Horn, county director of planning. "These are people of varied interests from in and around the community, a good list."

The committee includes Bonnie J. Grady, president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce; Westminster Mayor Kevin E. Dayhoff and Councilman Thomas K. Ferguson; C. Scott Stone, president of the county Board of Education; Wayne Schuster, county planning commissioner; and Mary Dietz, the state's regional planning director for Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties.

"The state will make its resources available to the panel," Horn said.

Representatives from Carroll Hospital Center, Random House, Westminster Regional Airport, TownMall of Westminster and the Greater Westminster Development Corp. also will serve on the panel.

"The panel is broad enough in representation but compact enough to accomplish its task," said Steven D. Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff. "They should appoint a chair, coordinate with planning and have all appropriate materials available, including maps. They will need access to materials throughout the process."

Commissioner Dean L. Minnich raised the bypass issue a few months ago, more than five years after the state scrapped it because of concerns it would promote sprawl. In approving the appointments, Minnich said he wanted to make sure the panel had strong leadership.

"Where is the rudder?" Minnich said. "I see a lot of oars in the water."

Horn assured the commissioners that his staff would be fully involved with the committee and would prepare agendas and summaries of the meetings. The sessions will begin early next year, with recommendations expected by spring, he said.

"We need all the questions answered," Minnich said. "This has to be thought through completely in a timely manner."

The county has been considering a Route 140 bypass for about 30 years. By the 1990s, a possible route was designed and some land was set aside. Plans came to a halt in 1999, when then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the project conflicted with his Smart Growth policy to control sprawling residential development.

The state has made improvements to the highway, most recently widening several bridges, but congestion persists. About 30,000 to 51,000 vehicles travel through the city on Route 140 daily, many driven by out-of-county Maryland and southern Pennsylvania commuters. Traffic could grow to nearly 80,000 vehicles in the next 20 years, state highway officials said.

The state recently completed a three-year, $1.3 million planning study on a 2 1/2 -mile stretch of Route 140 between Market Street and Sullivan Road.

The plan offers several options for improving the highway with interchanges, additional lanes and retaining walls. The commissioners have said they want those plans to move forward, even if the bypass becomes a reality.

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