SHA projects in Carroll County causing traffic woes in Eldersburg, but relief is in sight

Carroll County has three projects in the Maryland Dept. of Transportation State Highway Administration queue — from Md. 26 to Interstate 70 on Md. 32, from Liberty Reservoir to Md. 97 on on Md. 26; and from Md. 140 to Bachman’s Valley Road on Md. 97.

And residents say road widening and paving projects in Eldersburg have been making existing traffic worse.


“The Md. 26 traffic shift is complete on the westbound side,” MDOT SHA spokesperson Charlie Gischlar said Tuesday afternoon. “The Md. 32 work is close to finishing if not already complete.”

The Md. 32 work he mentioned was the work Eldersburg residents complained of on Monday Nov. 12, which caused traffic delays from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. Members of the Eldersburg Online Community said that the road paving had cars backed up for miles.


“If you are traveling south on RT32.... paving operations are going on!!! Traffic is SCREWED !” wrote local resident Mike Harrod in the community group Monday.

“I was in mid-day traffic,” Harrod told the Times. “Only vehicles going north were moving for 30 to 45 minutes. [I] went through Springfield and sat as long.”

The hubbub was enough for members of the online community, and the Sykesville Online Community, to make posts the following day asking if the traffic trickled into Tuesday.

“Is the construction still going on down Route 32 between Eldersburg and Sykesville?” Stacy Sands Lorentson asked the group shortly before noon Nov. 13. “Headed to work and need to know if I should leave myself extra time today. Thanks!!


“Yesterday at the same time was a nightmare…,” she wrote.

(Contributed/Mary Miller)

A reprieve from road work

But after a meeting with Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn last week, Carroll County staff learned if a state road project isn’t already planned, it’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

“If there isn’t an SHA project in the queue, nothing’s happeing until at least 2023,” said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, at this week’s Planning and Zoning meeting.

Planning Dept. Acting Director Lynda Eisenberg, who was also at the meeting, said, “I think the budget is tight.”

Eisenberg said she felt that for a project to get approved by the SHA, that “it has to be enhancing.”

“They are really focused on system preservation,” she said, “repairs, taking our existing infrastructure and making sure it’s up to the highest standards, especially in regards to safety.”

Eldersburg residents were made aware of Veterans Day roadwork on Liberty Road, Md. 26, Sunday evening going into the early Monday hours, but were caught with traffic on Md. 32 due to repaving. The Maryland Dept. of Transportation State Highway Administration Office was closed for Veterans Day.

But she said when discussing streetscapes there is some confusion by the public as “to what is the responsibility of the SHA and what is the responsibility of the towns.”

The ongoing streetscape project in Hampstead is the last major capacity project undertaken by the county. Once it is finished, Md. 30 will belong to the town. Towns tagged for streetscape improvement projects — Manchester was tagged a few years ago and New Windsor and Sykesville are going through the process now — are doing town infrastructure upgrades before state resurfacing projects begin.

“It makes sense,” she said.

But when patchwork is done, it may not be up to state standards, which, she said, can be a waste of money.

“It’s not all bad news,” Wantz said, “but maybe … looking forward, you won’t get everything you're looking for under the Christmas tree.”

Incremental improvements

Planning Commission member Dan Hoff said he felt Carroll County did have an advantage, however.

“I think whatever we can do as a community to make sure [everything we need] gets done in the next three years is really important,” he said Tuesday. “I think the governor really likes Carroll County and I think we need to leverage that relationship because things change.”

Commissioner-elect Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, was at the transportation meeting Nov. 8. As the newly elected commissioner for the Freedom Area, he told the Times Tuesday he believes the key to success will be an open dialogue “between our county, our state legislation, and Governor Hogan's administration.

“Clearly articulating our priorities and ensuring that it is understood why those priorities are critical for our community and county success,” he said. “In addition, it is absolutely essential for our county to continue and communicate to our community the status of the roads, construction timelines and our priorities.”

At the Planning and Zoning meeting, Hoff asked the commission and Wantz about fostering an open dialogue.

“Is it matter of politicking, pushing forward, luck?” he asked.

“Maybe a little bit of each of these things,” Wantz said. “We are attempting to do little things, a phased-in approach to improve infrastructure. That they really seem to listen to, and they like that approach.”

Eisenberg said she felt the county’s most successful projects have been those that have used a phased-in approach.

Del. Susan Krebs told the Times that the SHA also emphasized its partnership with the county and investment in infrastructure improvements.

“The county partnership/investment in certain projects in other areas of the county are what enabled them to move the projects forward,” she said. “We cannot continue to dump all of the growth in the Freedom Planning Area without investing in roads and infrastructure.”

More information on the SHA projects slated for Carroll County can be found on the Consolidated Transportation Program section of the MDOT website in the “MDOT State Highway Administration” chapter.

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