With his surprise announcement that he opposes a extension of Interstate 795 into Carroll County, Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy has effectively smothered the concept for the time being. With Commissioner Julia W. Gouge already having gone on record as favoring construction of bypasses around Hampstead and Manchester, instead of extending the interstate, that leaves just Commissioner Donald I. Dell as the sole proponent of a massive highway construction project.
Mr. Dell has maintained from the beginning that his proposal to extend I-795 through the county to Pennsylvania was just a means to stimulate discussion. In reality, though, Mr. Dell had already made up his mind. Without exploring the alternatives or implications of bringing such a major artery into the heart of the county, Mr. Dell had not only plotted the road, he'd determined the number and location of the exits. In his mind, his major task was solely to build the political support needed to begin the project.
To his surprise, however, a groundswell of opposition arose. It came from different quarters: homeowners who might lose property to the road, and countians generally opposed to development as well as those who feared that the interstate extension would tip the land use balance from agriculture to suburban development. Wags dubbed the plan "Dell-a-vision."
Carroll countians should not lose sight of the fact, however, that Mr. Dell's proposal arrived with a potential benefit. He prompted people to meet, discuss and consider major transportation, growth and development issues. The only drawback: Mr. Dell had reached his conclusions before much of the rest of the county's populace even understood the issues.
The I-795 extension plan spurred the formation of a group called the Carroll County Civic Association. Even though the highway issue appears dead, this organization shouldn't disappear. It can play a constructive role in shaping debate about long-range county problems. No other body has taken up this task; the new group should adopt it.
Mr. Dell should not consider the demise of his I-795 plan a crushing defeat. Through his determined advocacy of an unpopular plan, he may have jump-started a much-needed process to ultimately direct the county's future.