Westminster bypass back on SHA agenda Project to ease Route 140 traffic CENTRAL--Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg


The State Highway Administration is dusting off its plans for a Westminster bypass.

State officials plan to introduce four options at a public information meeting in February, including a southern alternate that would cross five Westminster subdivisions and a golf course.

The information meeting is to be followed by a public hearing. No date has been set for the hearing.

The SHA also will have a home-grown proposal to consider, a southern bypass route designed by Union Bridge resident W. Roger Roop. He is not related to the owners of the Roop Mill property crossed by the SHA's southern alternate route.

Mr. Roop's design would skirt the subdivisions and the golf course, and continue three-fourths of the way around Westminster.

The idea of a limited access highway around Westminster was introduced in 1985, when the county commissioners asked for public comment.

Mr. Roop, a milking equipment installer, devised a southern alternate route that he has since modified and extended to alleviate traffic congestion at the air business center on Route 97. He said he does not own any property that would be affected by the bypass.

"By being on the road with anything from a service truck to an 18-wheeler, you learn a lot," Mr. Roop said.

County government has put the northern route on its master plan to reserve rights-of-way. But Mr. Roop said the northern route offers no relief for quarry and cement plant trucks from the Union Bridge-New Windsor area.

County Commissioner Donald I. Dell, meanwhile, has proposed extending Interstate 795 north as an alternative to the Westminster, Hampstead and Manchester bypasses.

The Westminster bypass was proposed as a way of reducing congestion on Route 140 by allowing through traffic to avoid mixing with local traffic. It received money for planning studies, the first step in SHA's highway project process, but was affected by the state budget crunch in 1991.

James L. Wynn, assistant division chief for project planning, said the project was never officially shelved, "but we put it on a really slow schedule."

The state agency's proposed southern alternate cuts through some of Westminster's newest subdivisions from Route 31 to Uniontown Road, city Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard pointed out to the planning commission early this month. He said the route also crosses part of the Wakefield Valley golf course.

Mr. Wynn said the SHA wouldn't drop the alternate at this point, despite developments in its path.

"We still have some people who feel that the southern alignment best solves the problems of Westminster," he said.

The southern alternate may be best from engineering and traffic standpoints, Mr. Wynn said, but the agency wants to assess how heavy the impact on residences and businesses would be.

Mr. Roop's proposal would follow Route 31, skirting the subdivisions. It would cross part of the Western Maryland College campus and go north to an interchange with Route 97 about a half-mile north of Meadow Branch Road. Then it would arc northeast to meet Route 27 near the intersection of Route 482.

The four SHA options are:

* Northern alternate. Leaves eastbound Route 140 near Hughes Shop Road, goes under Hughes Shop Road, curves to the right just west of Krider's Church Road, has an interchange at Route 97, bridges Sullivan Road, the west branch of the Patapsco River and Lucabaugh Mill Road, and has an interchange at Route 27.

At that point, the SHA has two alternatives. One follows the path detailed in the county master plan, over Brehm Road and south parallel to the Maryland Midland Railway tracks, returning to Route 140 west of Reese Road. The other alignment runs farther west on a longer curve and returns to Route 140 west of Arnold Road, with a spur that would connect with Route 97 south.

* Southern alternate. Leaves eastbound Route 140 near Hughes Shop Road, goes through Roop Mill, crosses the Eagleview Estates, Furnace Hills, Fenby Farm, Alice's Pitch-In and Avondale Run subdivisions and Wakefield Valley Golf and Conference Center, crosses Routes 31, 27, 854 and 32, curves northeast and returns to Route 140 west of Reese Road.

* Upgrade Route 140. Mr. Wynn said the agency may start acquiring rights of way for a future bypass, but try to improve traffic flow on Route 140 in the next five to 10 years by widening the road or adding lanes.

* No change. The SHA includes this option because sometimes when the agency gets to a public hearing, "there is a feeling that the road is not needed," Mr. Wynn said. He said if SHA decides against any new construction for the bypass, it would still maintain Route 140 and make minor traffic improvements.

Mr. Wynn said the SHA will develop cost estimates for the alternate routes before the public information meeting.

State Highway Administrator Hal Kassoff said in October that an eight-mile, four-lane bypass from Hughes Shop Road to Reese Road would cost $200 million.

Local activism and support can make a difference in how fast a project moves, Mr. Wynn said.

Carroll Del. Richard N. Dixon, a District 5A Democrat who sits on the education and transportation subcommittee of the House appropriations committee, said he sees a need for a Westminster bypass, but he would have to give top priority to a Hampstead-Manchester bypass.

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