Officials propose transit plans

Expanded roads, new trails included in regional draft

August 05, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun reporter

Within the next 30 years, Carroll County residents could drive along a Manchester bypass, zip through lanes added to expanded state roads or bike half a dozen new trails, according to a draft plan for transportation throughout the Baltimore region.

Prepared by the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, the plan includes about 90 capital projects planned from 2013 to 2035.

It divides an anticipated $33.4 billion in federal and state funding into three categories: operations, preservation and expansion.

While highway projects consume nearly $9 billion or so, some of the funds are set aside for transit, bicycle and pedestrian pathways, operations and air quality.

"This plan doesn't just come about over a couple of months. It takes a lot of time," said Frank Johnson, a representative on the transportation board, during a public presentation last week. "It's very much of a long-range plan."

Numerous factors played into the plan's development, said Johnson, whose role involves acting as a representative to the board in the absence of county Commissioner Dean L. Minnich, one of its 10 regional members.

Johnson, Minnich and other local officials highlighted projects specific to Carroll during the session at the county office building, where residents gathered to survey and comment on the proposal.

The jurisdiction's projects (with planned opening dates):

Widening Route 26 to six lanes to create continuous right turn lanes between Route 32 and the Liberty Reservoir (2015) -- and to four lanes from Route 32 to Route 27 (2025).

Increasing Route 32 to four lanes from Route 26 to Howard County border (2020).

Beefing up Route 140 to eight lanes from Market Street to Sullivan Road, with full interchange at Route 97S. (2020).

Creating new two-lane Manchester Bypass from Brodbeck Road to north of Route 86 (2030).

Also detailed were a number of 8-foot-wide bicycle and pedestrian pathways:

Wakefield Valley Community Trail: along Route 31 connecting New Windsor and Westminster (2015).

Trail from Piney Run Park to Sykesville's Millard Cooper Park (2015).

Trail running along the north and west branch of the Patapsco River going from the Liberty Reservoir to east of Westminster (2020).

Monocacy River Scenic Greenway: along the river, passing through Frederick and Carroll (2020).

Patapsco Regional Trail: between Mount Airy's Watkins Park and Sykesville's Main Street, along the river's South Branch (2020).

Little Pipe Creek Trail: from Union Bridge to New Windsor (2025). Although they might follow highways, the trails would be off-road, separate paths, said Bobbi Moser, a comprehensive planner in the county's Department of Planning, in response to one resident's question.

John Lopez, of Finksburg, said in lieu of trails, he'd rather see projects funded to solve "horrible traffic problems from the county line to Westminster" on Route 140.

Yet the plan has to be "multimodal," accounting for other forms of transportation, explained Regina Aris, policy manager for the transportation division at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

"Roads support a lot of movement," Aris later said, "but it's not for everybody."

Outside of Carroll, there are also plans to expand Route 32 to four lanes, from the county line to Interstate 70.

Minnich said creating easier access to the interstate will be necessary for economic development, which could help to "cut down on the number of people who are leaving the county" for work and bring more incoming commuters.

For Eldersburg resident Nancy Dunn and others, the proposal sparked questions about timing.

"These plans are fabulous, but the time frame we're looking at is way out there," Dunn said. Traffic "choke points" in the southern part of the county and other areas will need some relief if business development is to continue, she said.

"I'd like to see some of it happen sooner," Dunn said.

Last week's meeting was one of several held throughout the region, and part of an updating process that occurs every four years to meet federal requirements.

The public review period for the plan, which lists projects for Baltimore City and surrounding counties, ends Aug. 29.

Besides the local presentations, another public meeting is scheduled at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council on Aug. 21 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The regional transportation board is expected to meet with elected officials Aug. 28 at the same location.

The final plan will serve as a recommendation to the state Department of Transportation, Minnich said, and eventually should lead to discussion and prioritization of projects -- an "ongoing round robin of negotiations and reassessments and replanning."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

To comment on the regional transportation plan, go to www.baltometro.org, e-mail mhaines@baltometro.org, or write the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board at 2700 Lighthouse Point East, Suite 310, Baltimore, MD. 21224.

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