When rush hour hits in Manchester, roads back up to a standstill on the town’s Main Street and nearby commercial areas.
A meeting was held Wednesday, Sept. 5 to discuss options for relieving some of the traffic pressure.
Carroll County Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said traffic has been one of the biggest issues he hears about from citizens, and organized the meeting in an effort to get state, county and municipal representatives around a table at the same time.
Representatives from the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), Wantz, Richard Weaver, R-District 2, Manchester’s Town Council and Mayor, and members of the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission attended.
Weaver said at this time the county has “an unbelievable rapport” with the state when it comes to requesting funds for infrastructure projects.
“The opportunity is here and it may not stay there forever,” he said.
Manchester Mayor Ryan Warner opened by saying the “pie in the sky” hope for Manchester was a bypass similar to the one constructed in Hampstead that would move traffic out of the town’s main roads and neighborhoods. In the meantime, he hoped they could look at ways to divert more traffic.
Attendees discussed the points of greatest congestion, including the intersection of Md. 30 and Md. 27, the light at the intersection of York Street and Main Street, the intersection with Maple Grove Road next to Manchester Valley High School and the intersection of Broadbeck Road and Md. 30. Though it falls within the Hampstead ZIP code, it connects to the traffic farther along on 30.
The idea that traveling less than 2 miles down Main Street can take 20 minutes during a normal rush hour was a frustration expressed by many.
Council members also expressed concern that the traffic could be a safety hazard if it kept first responders from arriving quickly to an emergency.
Warner said, “This isn’t the 495 beltway. We understand that. But it is a small community with the intersection of two state highways. We’re at the mercy of what happens outside of us.”
A bypass for Manchester has been “on and off the books forever,” Manchester Council Vice President Dale Wilder said. He has been in the town government in planning and on the council for about 20 years, he said, and has seen plans drawn and discarded because of multiple factors including cost and environmental regulations in proposed areas.
The idea of a bypass remains in the town’s most recent 10-year comprehensive plan, approved Aug. 14.
Wantz stressed that a bypass project wouldn’t be able to be completed for years, and asked for additional suggestions that could go toward alleviation in a shorter time period.
Improvements to the intersection of Md. 27 and 30 were also discussed, including an additional right turn lane into 27 from southbound 30 that could queue several cars in that direction.
SHA district engineer John Concannon said that approximately $500,000 had been put toward studies and engineering costs toward improving the intersection by SHA in 2012, but a stopper had been put in the project because of the cost of moving prior infrastructure.
Some said a bypass should be prioritized as soon as possible. Resident Tammy Etzel said the bypass has been on the books since she moved to Manchester in 1983 and she felt it was the only solution for the well being of the community.
Some expressed frustration that a percentage of the traffic is Pennsylvania residents traveling south and suggested a toll to help pay the cost of road improvement and maintenance.
Guy Garey, president of the Manchester Area Merchants Association, said a bypass would move traffic away from business in town and owners would see a significant drop in business.