As Steele passes though Carroll, small towns voice need for bypasses

Congestion in Hampstead, Manchester is hot topic during lieutenant governor's visit

SUMMER In Carroll County

July 24, 2005|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

In keeping with his promise to visit all of the state's municipalities, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele spent several hours touring Hampstead and Manchester last week and focused many of his remarks on bypasses for both towns.

Although rumors abound that Steele is considering a run for a U.S. Senate seat, Carroll residents and local politicians were more interested in talking about traffic congestion than politics.

In Hampstead, the State Highway Administration plans to break ground for a $76 million bypass around the town's Main Street in April. Construction will take about three years. And when the long-planned bypass is opened, it is expected to cause traffic congestion along Route 30 in Manchester.

"This is the first time I really heard a lot about it," Steele said of Manchester's need for a bypass, as he concluded a visit last week to both towns at the Dutch Corner Restaurant.

"We need to find out where we are," he said of the ideas about a bypass for Manchester. "My goal is to get it on the radar screen ... [and ideally] to catch it up to the Hampstead bypass."

The state Department of Transportation will be looking at this and other issues, Steele said. Currently, the state is not considering a Manchester bypass.

Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening scrapped plans for bypasses in Manchester and Westminster seven years ago, saying they would promote sprawl. The Hampstead bypass was so far along in the planning phase that Glendening allowed it to move forward.

During his visit, Steele saw construction that will convert the old Hampstead school into 84 senior housing units. Denise Adams, program manager of the housing division of the state Department of Aging, said the project, set to open this fall, has reservations for 65 percent of the units.

Steele walked Manchester's Main Street, popping into shops and receiving compliments for the state-funded streetscape beautification project.

Mayor Christopher B. D'Amario said he was eager to show off Main Street's new look, but he knew no one would be able to hear anything because of the traffic.

Manchester police Chief Charles L. Lewis Jr. brought his own map and posted it on the wall of the Dutch Corner to show Steele how a bypass west of the town could work. Lewis' suggestion would have the bypass cross Route 27 and continue north of town to connect with Route 30.

Manchester may be a small town, Lewis said, "but it can have a major impact on the Baltimore area." Even a minor accident could create a one-mile backup for the estimated 20,000 vehicles that travel that stretch of Route 30 every day, he said.

Route 30 needs a spur to move commuters, many of whom travel from southern Pennsylvania, Lewis added.

"We're going to get this back in the transportation [plan]," Steele told the police chief.

While chatting with merchants and well-wishers in both towns, Steele fended off questions about his possible run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. He concentrated, instead, on town issues.

Steele's spokeswoman Regan D. Hopper said the lieutenant governor told the Maryland Municipal League convention in 2004 that he would do "his absolute best" to get to each municipality before his terms ends.

"We've done 23; this [was] 24 and 25," she said.

Steele said that with more than 45 percent of the state's people living in its 157 municipalities, Maryland "is still a small town at heart. The Main Street of any community is the heartbeat of that community."

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