Drivers stuck in lines waiting to turn right from North Center Street onto Route 140 in Westminster will have to keep their motors idling while the City Council decides whether to go ahead with a project designed to relieve the congestion.
The council was ready to scrap plans to create a right turn lane on Center Street at its Monday night meeting. But a warning from City Councilman Kenneth A. Yowan bought the project a little breathing space.
"We'd have to give the developer [of Cranberry Mall] his money back" if the council killed the project, Mr. Yowan pointed out.
He said the State Highway Administration also is likely to want reimbursement for its share.
City Attorney John B. Walsh Jr. said he wasn't certain how much the council would have to repay, but advised that it might be better to defer the project than to kill it.
State highway money has reimbursed the city for 75 percent of approximately $20,000 spent on the project so far, and the city has paid the rest out of $25,000 put up by the mall developer, said Steven V. Dutterer, city finance director. The developer put up a share to alleviate congestion from traffic generated by the mall on the opposite side of the intersection.
The project cost is estimated at $200,000. The city's share would be $25,000.
But Robert L. Fisher, SHA's assistant district engineer for construction, said yesterday he could not confirm the state's commitment to the project.
The council considered scrapping the project because Aero Oil Co., of New Oxford, Pa., has requested compensation for about one-tenth of an acre that would be needed to widen the street for the turning lane. Aero owns the property occupied by a 7-Eleven convenience store at the corner.
Council members balked at paying the $23,000 appraised price for the land.
"Aero is a publicly held corporation, and as such I must require just compensation for any assets," Jerry T. Lank, Aero's chief operating officer, said in his reply to a request from Mayor W. Benjamin Brown for the company to donate the property to the city.
Mr. Lank was out of town yesterday and was unavailable for comment.
Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr. argued for killing the project on the grounds that the intersection doesn't need a right turn lane. He said he travels it frequently, "and I don't experience that much of a problem."
The council decided to defer action until Mr. Walsh can advise them on the city's liability for the return of the money already spent if the project is abandoned.
Councilman Yowan said he didn't think other contributors would accept an indefinite deferral of the project.
"I'm sure that both the developer and the state, who have come up with money [already], will be expecting that it will be completed in some reasonable time," he said.