Road expansion on horizon

Plan would widen 5, build 2 new ones to handle BRAC growth

August 05, 2007|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,Sun reporter

Five roads would be widened and two new roads built to accommodate the workers and residents who are expected to flock to Harford County as part of the military Base Realignment and Closure process, according to a preliminary transportation plan for the region.

Among the changes: An 8-mile stretch of Churchville Road would be widened to four lanes, a segment of Belair Road would become a six-lane highway and a new road would be built in the Perryman West area of the county, according to a long-term plan presented by the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board at a public meeting last week.

The plan calls for more than 80 highway, transit and bike or pedestrian path projects to be constructed in Baltimore City and the five surrounding counties between 2013 and 2035.

"The plan must be fiscally constrained and allow, first of all, for maintenance projects, which are then considered based on projected growth patterns and reducing congestion," said Karin Foster, a transportation manager for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the organization that staffs the regional transportation board.

Many Harford residents who attended the public meeting Tuesday in the County Administration Building said they wanted more public transportation options and less road construction. Several expressed dismay about plans to widen certain roads.

"Don't try to bring the city into the country," said Carolyn Hicks of Joppa.

But representatives of the transportation board and the county's Department of Planning and Zoning said that changes are necessary to handle an expected surge in commuters.

Among the seven jurisdictions, Harford County is forecast to see the greatest percentage growth in employment - 72 percent by 2035 - as the number of jobs in the county jumps from 96,000 to 156,000. The entire metropolitan region would see about a 29 percent increase in jobs, according to the board's projections.

The county's population is also expected to increase at a greater rate than the region as a whole. About 30 percent more people would live in Harford County in 2035 than today, boosting the population to 285,000.

The metro region's population is expected to swell by 18 percent, from 2.5 million to nearly 3 million, according to data .

The new plan marks the first time that the transportation board has considered changes wrought by the military's Base Realignment and Closure program.

The board, which is composed of county executives, mayors of Baltimore and Annapolis, and representatives from the state's departments of transportation, environment and planning, drafts a prioritized list of long-term projects every four years, under federal guidelines.

Anthony S. McClune, Harford's deputy director of planning and zoning, stressed that the plans were preliminary and that planners were open to citizens' comments.

A final plan is scheduled to be released in late October, said Foster of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

The highway projects, which are estimated to cost $33.4 billion in 2007 dollars, will be federally funded, Foster said.

Among projects slated for the county is the construction of a four-lane state road - Route 715 - that would stretch from U.S. 40 to Churchville Road and be completed in 2020. Another two-lane road is planned to connect U.S. 40 at Mitchell Lane to Canning House Road in the Perryman West area in 2025.

The county's first project, set for 2015, would be the expansion of Route 24 from four lanes to six between Singer Road and Business Route 1.

Segments of U.S. 1 and the U.S. 1 Bypass would be enlarged in 2020 under the plan.

Churchville Road, or Route 22, is set to expand in two parts. In 2020, it would be widened to four lanes between Fountain Green Road and Interstate 95, according to the plan. A decade later, the section between I-95 and the gates of Aberdeen Proving Ground would be expanded to six lanes.

Several residents said that they were concerned that an expansion of Churchville Road would disturb the peace of the surrounding neighborhoods.

"If we turn that into a superhighway, that's where the traffic is going to go - and that's contrary to the land-use plan," said Janet Hardy of Abingdon. She questioned why Churchville Road would be expanded rather than Pulaski Highway, which is located in the county's development envelope.

Other transportation plans for the county include the relocation of the MARC station in Aberdeen and the construction of nine biking and pedestrian trails throughout the county.

Kevin Racine, a Havre de Grace resident and vice president of the Transit Riders Action Council, said the county needed to expand bus lines.

"It's very difficult to use public transportation to reach other counties or the northern part of this county," he said.

Hicks, of Joppa, expressed concerns about highway workers employed by the county.

"We, as citizens of Harford County, have seen these road crews where two guys are holding signs and the rest of them are sitting there chewing the fat," she said. "You feel like getting out of your car and saying, `Hey, get off your butts and get to work - that's our tax money you're wasting.' "

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

Public meetings on the regional plan will be held Aug. 21 and Aug. 28 at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council's offices at 2700 Lighthouse Point East, Suite 310, Baltimore 21224. For more information or to submit a comment, visit www.baltometro.org.

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