State transportation officials met with Carroll County representatives Thursday, outlining progress on roadway improvement projects and discussing the need to improve pedestrian safety.
The Maryland Department of Transportation and State Highway Administration representatives met with Carroll County commissioners and local government representatives Thursday, discussing specific transportation projects and concerns from local officials.
At the meeting, MDOT described the status of ongoing road projects through Carroll, as well as a finished project to widen Md. 26 and an upcoming project to improve a Md. 32 intersection.
Carroll County and its municipalities will receive nearly $4.7 million in Highway User Revenues this year, an increase of $560,000 over last year’s allocation, according to MDOT’s news release.
State transportation officials provided these updates on Carroll projects:
- MDOT SHA recently completed a $5 million widening of Md. 26 between Emerald Lane and Calvert Way in Eldersburg. The project added a second lane in each direction on Md. 26.
- A $2.5 million project to add left turn lanes at the intersection of Md. 26 and Oakland Mills Road is nearing completion. The project aims to improve safety and relieve congestion.
- Crews are nearly finished making capacity improvements along Md. 97 between Pleasant Valley Road and Airport Drive/Magna Way. A through lane was added in each direction, and a new traffic signal will be activated at the intersection of Md. 97 and Arthur Peck Drive.
- Construction continues on the $33 million Md. 30 Business urban reconstruction project in Hampstead. The project is currently slated to be completed in 2020.
- Construction is underway on a $4.1 million improvement project on Md. 32 between Main Street and MacBeth Way to support the Army National Guard Readiness Center. The project will add an additional northbound travel lane on Md. 32 and a center turn lane. Construction is scheduled to be completed in fall 2020.
- Construction is underway on a $2.2 million safety improvement project on Md. 27 at Gillis Falls Road that will add left turn lanes on Md. 27 and realign Gillis Falls Road opposite Harrisville Road. Carroll County contributed $300,000 toward construction and $100,000 for temporary traffic signals. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
- MDOT SHA next spring will begin intersection improvements on Md. 32 at Johnsville Road and Bennet Road. The $4.5 million project will include left turn lanes to improve safety and relieve congestion.
Pedestrian deaths down in Carroll
One major point MDOT prioritized at the meeting was addressing safety concerns for pedestrians.
“Last year, there were over 500 people killed on our roadways, and 25 percent of those 500 were pedestrians; people trying to cross the street, people with a disabled vehicle that were hit on the side of the road, those types of issues," MDOT SHA administrator Greg Slater said. “We’re trying to do our part to really work on that issue in particular. So we also understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to transportation, every community is a little bit different, our counties are a little bit different, the roadways are a little bit different. So we needed to find a solution and get us away from that one size fits all.”
To confront the issue, MDOT developed a draft of what they call a “context driven access and mobility for all users guidance document." According to Slater, it’s going to serve to help them to “develop solutions and have tools in our toolbox that are driven by land use along these roadways, versus the roadway itself.”
According to Christine Nizer, Motor Vehicle Administration administrator, Carroll has seen a significant decrease in pedestrian deaths, with 25 in 2017 dropping to 11 in 2018.
About $452,000 in Safe Routes to Schools funding has been awarded for sidewalk projects throughout the county in efforts to improve pedestrian safety, according to MDOT’s news release.
The mayors of Taneytown, Union Bridge and New Windsor each brought concerns to the commissioners and MDOT regarding their municipalities.
Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones raised concerns about flooding in his town.
“We had problems last year because we had over about 100 inches of rain last year, a lot of flooding,” he said. “Anything you can do and keep us in mind with our bridge and our flooding in Union Bridge, would be appreciated.”
Jones also expressed frustrations with what he described as hundreds of large trucks coming through Main Street in Union Bridge every day.
He said, “Union Bridge is one of the only towns in Carroll County where you have truck traffic coming in off of a town street onto a state highway. When we talked to the commissioners earlier this year, we talked about closing Union Bridge Road, which is where it comes in on a county road into our town street, eliminating trucks off that road altogether because it’s breaking up our road.”
Taneytown Mayor Bradley Wantz reintroduced the idea of adding a bypass to alleviate intense traffic in that city.
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“[Traffic] backs up literally halfway through the city,” he said. “A bypass would be a huge benefit to us. It would open up some industrial land, it would allow us to continue the growth that people want to come to Taneytown; we’re attracting businesses, we’re attracting residents, but the traffic is really hindering everything.”
New Windsor Mayor Neal Roop expressed frustration with MDOT for cutbacks that it made on an “urban reconstruction” project on Md. 31, or High Street, in New Windsor, from Lambert Avenue to east of Church Street.
According to Roop, the original project had a price tag of $10 million, but the town was able to do its part to bring that down to about $5 million. The original plan was to build a roundabout by Church Street, realign Springdale Avenue, and replace the stormwater management infrastructure, all the curving sidewalks and some retaining walls. But the project as it stands now, he contends, is accomplishing much less without costing much less.
“I told them upfront, I have an attitude because this is very, very frustrating when we, as a small town, have financial hardship when we have to pay 3.5 million dollars for our share and pass it on to 1,500 people," he said. “But here, for five years, we’re working and now we’ve got to cut back even more and now the project is just going to be sidewalk, curb replacement and paving, to about $3 million. Then, the pedestrian lighting will be about $400,000 but you’re pushing [$3.5 million], which, to me, you’re not far from the $5 million. So I would like to see the original design move forward.”
MDOT SHA Deputy Transportation Secretary Earl Lewis Jr. responded to Roop by saying, “I think if you continue to communicate, obviously, we’re hoping for some good news in the future related to the budget." Lewis added that current trends aren’t helpful in finding additional funding for transportation, though he did not elaborate.