Westminster rejects turn lane on Main St. Safety, parking worry council CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg


Safety concerns and the loss of parking spaces have led the Westminster City Council to unanimously reject a proposed left-turn lane at the city's busiest intersection.

Members weighed problems for emergency vehicles and the loss of parking against convenience to motorists before rejecting a plan to add a turn lane on Main Street at Center Street.

Councilwoman Rebecca Orenstein said the intersection "is a direct route" to Carroll County General Hospital and heavily used by fire and ambulance vehicles. Emergency vehicle operators opposed the plan, saying it would reduce room to maneuver.

"The size of our equipment makes turning tricky," said Capt. Charles Simpson of the Westminster Volunteer Fire Department. "If traffic would back up in the turn lane, there would not be adequate room for our equipment to make a right turn off Main onto Center."

While Councilman Stephen Chapin called the fire department's concerns valid, he supports adding a lane. He lives near the spot and said he drives through the intersection every day, rather than attempt a left turn.

"I just go up and cut back," he said.

While the intersection is closed for Main Street reconstruction, State Highway Administration crews could add the turn lane and road markings.

So the council had agreed to reconsider the proposal, which it denied two years ago.

Said Doug Rose, a State Highway Administration engineer, "The lane makes sense as far as smooth traffic flow goes."

But a recent SHA study found that the traffic volume at the intersection does not warrant a left-turn lane or an arrow in the traffic signal.

City Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard said he saw no benefit to the lane without a left-turn arrow.

"We only add further congestion," said Mr. Beyard.

Adding the lane also would mean sacrificing 10 parking spaces on both sides of Main Street.

"The Main Street Reconstruction Task Force is on record as opposing the lane based on public safety and the loss of parking," said Ms. Orenstein. "I don't know why the city is resurrecting this concept."

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