SHA signals go for project

New traffic light is part of plan to ease Route 32 woes in Eldersburg

September 10, 2006|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

The State Highway Administration is moving forward with a long-awaited Route 32 reconstruction project in Eldersburg to ease congestion and curb accidents.

The $8.5 million, half-mile project, from south of Macbeth Way to Route 26 (Liberty Road), should go out to bid in November, with construction to begin next summer.

State engineers met with the Carroll County commissioners and held an information session in Sykesville last week to explain design changes for the project, which includes $2.5 million in county funds.

"At this point, the design is pretty well finalized," Mark Crampton, assistant SHA district engineer, said after meeting with the commissioners. "It's just a matter of making the public aware of what's happening."

Several elected officials and political candidates joined about 70 residents and business owners at SHA's public meeting Thursday night, where they were given an overview of the project and a chance to ask questions.

Business owners expressed concern over access and wondered who would pay if they were forced to close. SHA officials assured them the state would pay to buy the property and relocate them, if necessary.

Others questioned how they would access businesses on the east side of Route 32 from Liberty Road, with a concrete barrier stretching from Liberty to MacBeth Way.

A resident near the MacBeth Way/Piney Ridge intersection wondered how he was going to get into and out of his home during rush hours.

And Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department Chief Ed Ruch Sr., said he is trying to figure alternate routes to Eldersburg on emergency calls.

"This is not going to solve all the traffic problems in the area, but this is a step in the right direction," said David Coyne, district engineer.

A new traffic light, to be constructed at the troublesome intersection of Route 32 and Macbeth Way, is the most requisite part of the project, officials said.

"It's very difficult to get out there, not only during the evening rush hour but also on weekends," said Crampton, who is also an Eldersburg resident.

But that signal light might not be up and running until the project is completed in the spring of 2008, state officials said.

County officials hope to expedite the signal light after Route 32 is first widened.

"Part of the process is to get that intersection signalized as soon as possible," said Steven C. Horn, the county's director of planning.

A new right-turn only lane will also be constructed onto southbound Route 32 from eastbound Route 26. It will extend down to Macbeth Way.

That should ease the heavy traffic on southbound Route 32, especially during peak hours, Crampton said.

Where Route 32 narrows to one lane around Macbeth Way, it will be widened to two lanes around the stoplight, according to the SHA.

A new median strip will grow to six-feet-wide at Route 32's intersections with Route 26 and MacBeth Way, Crampton said. That will accommodate pedestrians and those in wheelchairs. The rest of the median will be two-feet-wide.

This highway project isn't the county's most desired, Horn said. Expanding all of Route 32, between I-70 and Route 26, remains a priority, albeit an expensive one, he said. It would improve the connection to other counties.

"It hasn't even been recognized by SHA as a viable project," Horn said of the Route 32 project that could cost upward of $50 million.

No state construction funds have been allocated for another Route 26 corridor improvement project, Horn said. The county has put $1 million toward that project, estimated to cost more than $20 million.

Traffic at the intersection of Routes 32 and 26 is about four times the highways' capacity during peak hours, often causing motorists to wait through as many as three light cycles, Crampton told The Sun last year.

About 16 accidents occurred on this targeted section of Route 32 in both 2004 and 2005, up from 11 accidents in 2003, according to SHA data. Accidents there injured 22 people in 2004 - a high among statistics collected since 2001.

Sidewalks, five-feet-wide in most stretches, will benefit pedestrians on this part of Route 32.

Several vacant buildings that were dubbed eyesores were razed along the southwest corner of Routes 32 and 26 for the widening project. The Freedom Area Citizens Council successfully lobbied to have the buildings demolished.

"It was our pressure on the county that changed the language in the law, for having the vacant buildings determined uninhabitable for business," said Ross A. Dangel, a spokesman for the FACC. In total, $3.5 million of the $8.5 million on this project is earmarked for property acquisition, SHA officials said.

Part of the Breand Corporation building, on the northeast side of Route 32 near 26, will be demolished to build a retaining wall, officials said.

A storm water management pond is no longer necessary at Piney Ridge Parkway, SHA officials said. Drainage ditches will instead be constructed at Route 32 and Macbeth Way, Crampton said.

South Carroll Del. Susan W. Krebs also spoke of the problematic right-turn into the Princess Shopping Center from southbound Route 32.

"There's no merge at all," she said. "It's just a sharp right-turn in."

SHA officials said they would look into widening it.

SHA engineers will discuss the project with the FACC at their Sept. 21 meeting 7:30 p.m. at the South Carroll Senior Center, 5745 Bartholow Road, Sykesville. For more information, residents may contact the SHA's Highway Design Division, 410-545-8869.

Sun staffer Ellie Baublitz contributed to this article.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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