Residents put bump in road project

After complaints, planners may change Monroe Ave. plan


Carroll County planners and public works staff are considering whether to modify the Monroe Avenue extension project in South Carroll, as Eldersburg residents have voiced mounting complaints on the plans.

The $3.5 million project, which will build two missing segments of Monroe Avenue to connect Routes 32 and 26, has been in the works for nearly 30 years. But the project triggered a backlash from residents living along Monroe Avenue, when the county recently designated $340,000 for construction next year.

Rather than build just a bypass for highway traffic, residents say an extended road can connect existing and new neighborhoods.

"We oppose having bypasses through our community," said South Carroll Del. Susan W. Krebs, who lives in Eldersburg. "These connector roads should connect people in the communities. They can still take you from point A to point B, but just in a more community-connected way."

Under current plans, an extended Monroe Avenue would run through a farmer's field to Route 32, Krebs and other residents have said. Instead, they want a more local road to connect existing subdivisions with new ones, such as Oak Creek, where a developer is funding a portion of the extension near Bennett Road.

That's a safer, more family-friendly alternative, said Roberta Windham, another Eldersburg resident who serves on the county's Board of Zoning Appeals. Her daughter, Katie, 13, especially wants a neighborhood road.

"She said, `That means I could ride my bike to X, Y, and Z's house,'" Windham said. "It makes sense. Keep the main road traffic on the main roads, and the local traffic on the local roads."

A traffic engineer is reviewing alternatives for the project and will present findings to the county commissioners later this summer. Options being considered include connecting Monroe Avenue to Pine Knob Road instead of constructing a new exit onto Route 32.

"The big thing is another curb cut," Windham said. "There are 15 or 16 curb cuts [entrances/exits] on 32, within seven-tenths of a mile, from Bennett Road to Pine Knob. Fifteen of them! Now, to just add another one doesn't seem to be logical, especially when there are other alternatives."

County officials are anxious to move on the Monroe Avenue connection, since the project was conceived in 1977. It was part of the comprehensive master plan they created for South Carroll. Growth had been expected to pay for the project. Instead, legislation passed in 2004 permits the county to direct public funds toward road construction, seeking reimbursement as the properties are developed.

To reduce traffic congestion, the commissioners have earmarked $1 million for engineering improvements on Route 26, said Steven C. Horn, the county's director of planning.

Other safety measures, such as traffic circles, speed bumps and stop signs, would also be a part of the project, Horn said.

Amid lingering concerns, the commissioners stressed the importance of moving forward on the project.

"If you take this project out now, and put it in several years from now, that project is going to escalate in cost," said Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr.

He and Commissioner Dean L. Minnich have questioned the way the issues have been raised during an election year.

"Now, at the 11th hour, somebody is apparently raising questions about our responsiveness," Minnich said. "There will be all kinds of opportunities taken to get the water stirred up."

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