On Sept. 5, the Mayor and Town Council of Manchester hosted a meeting to discuss the traffic issues on Main Street. Drivers can spend up to 20 minutes crossing only a 2-mile stretch of road during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
Many Pennsylvanians use Md. 30 as part of their commute to travel to and from Interstate 795. Manchester residents and local business owners have dealt with this ongoing traffic nuisance for dozens of years. The question asked at the meeting was, what can be done to fix it?
Unfortunately, the town’s leadership did not offer any solutions. As previously reported by the Carroll County Times, Mayor Ryan Warner said, “the meeting had not necessarily resulted in actionable next steps” and that “it was good to underscore the need for help from the County and State to fund solutions.” The Town’s 2018 Manchester Comprehensive Plan appears to back the mayor’s plan to turn this perplexing problem over to greater powers. The Plan’s Transportation Objective 1 requests “that Carroll County and the MDOT (Maryland Department of Transportation) take the lead in completing a comprehensive study to prepare alternative transportation modes and deliver systems addressing downtown traffic congestion on Maryland Route 30.”
The only potential solution the mayor discussed was the often-rumored Manchester Route 30 bypass. The town’s most recent plan (as of June 2018) has the proposed bypass running to the east of Md. 30, starting on North Carroll Lane (by North Carroll Middle), cutting through or crossing Warehime, Miller’s Station, Water Tank, and Lineboro roads, and finally Manchester Baptist Church Road, before rejoining Md. 30 just south of Tracey’s Mill Road.
For decades, Manchester has yearned for a bypass that could divert the rush hour traffic around their town, just as Hampstead’s bypass does. However, the story of Manchester’s bypass is full of many ups and downs that dates back to the Eisenhower era. Former County Commissioner Julia Gouge once said there were plans going back to the 1950s to build a bypass to go around all of Md. 30 starting in Baltimore County and ending in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Manchester’s elected leaders would ultimately reject the idea of a bypass in 1979.
Plans for a town bypass almost became reality in the 1990s, but in 1999, funding for a $70 million Manchester bypass was killed by Gov. Parris Glendening because it promoted suburban sprawl. During Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s time in office, talk of the bypass was resurrected but never came to fruition. Commenting on the likelihood of a bypass being built in the foreseeable future, Commissioner Stephen Wantz said at the meeting, “that it would be years out, and fixes were needed in the meantime.”
Guy Garey, a Manchester business owner and president of the Manchester Area Merchants Association, believes that there are more sensible short-term solutions that can fix the town’s dilemma. Garey proposes having a green arrow at the intersection of York Street and Md. 30 during the rush hours only. Having a green arrow could help eliminate the traffic that builds up on Md. 30 as drivers await the opportunity to risk their lives as they attempt to make a left-hand turn.
I think another, more permanent, idea that would be a long-term fix and serve as an alternative to a bypass is a downtown reversible third lane. Rush hour traffic flows one way on Md. 30, depending on the time of day. A reversible third lane, adjusted via a lane control system, would provide morning commuters with a second lane heading south, and evening commuters with a second lane heading north. Main Street is approximately 36 feet wide (the width varies block to block) with each lane stretching 11 feet wide. A third 11-foot lane could be created that would fit within the parameters set by the existing curbs and sidewalks. This method for reducing rush hour traffic is already used in Maryland at the Bay Bridge, in Baltimore on the Hanover St. Bridge, and in Silver Spring on Georgia Ave. and Colesville Road.
A reversible third lane would only be necessary in downtown Manchester. For the stretch of Md. 30 north and south of downtown, the present two-lane road could be reconstructed to include a total of four lanes. Two extra lanes could be added to Md. 30 on the southern side starting at the Hampstead Walmart up to Maple Grove Road, and pick back up on the northern side after Michelle Road and end shortly pass Lineboro Road.
An innovative proposition like this would needs a feasibility study to determine whether it is practical. Del. Haven Shoemaker, Chair of the Carroll County Delegation, said, “I would gladly speak with Gov. Hogan, who has made it clear that he is committed to easing congestion and reducing travel times, and his Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn, about obtaining a traffic study and getting an engineering assessment.”
I am not certain whether this idea is realistic or not, but I hope that others feel encouraged to speak up and propose solutions to Manchester’s traffic crisis. For more than half a century Manchester has been trying to solve this problem. Let our generation be the one that finds the answer.