'Honey, I Shrunk the Traffic on 140'


Even though Maryland State Highway Administration statistics may say otherwise, anyone who drove Route 140 during 1993 knew that there were a lot more cars on the road than the year before. Carroll County and state transportation planners should not be mislead by the ill-executed 1992 traffic count.

If the SHA's count is to be believed, the number of cars passing through Westminster declined by about 10,000 cars a day. In 1992, about 55,000 vehicles passed by the Cranberry Mall every day. By 1993, the average was about 45,100.

These results contradict the impressions of thousands of motorists who find themselves backed up at intersections during the morning and evening rush hours. To the casual observer, it seems to be taking longer each month to negotiate the seven intersections that are regulated by traffic signals on Route 140 through Westminster.

Engineers readily admit to problems with the traffic count. The 1992 survey was done at the height of the Christmas shopping season, an unrepresentative time to count traffic.

It wouldn't take a highway expert to figure that out. To obtain a more representative picture of the traffic volume, the count should have taken place during periods that are not influenced by holidays, school openings or other events that cause a spike in traffic volume.

State officials are well aware of the deficiency in their statistics and are not taking the results seriously.

However, because the 1992 results constitute the official state count, people pushing their own agendas -- who don't want any new highways through the county, for example -- might be tempted to use the numbers to argue that Route 140 is adequate to handle the current volume of traffic.

It would be a joke if these questionable results were treated as any reliable indicator.

The future of Route 140 is more, not less, traffic and congestion. Continued residential growth around Westminster and areas north of the county seat as well as in Pennsylvania will put more vehicles on the road.

As long as people have to commute outside Carroll County to work, you can most assuredly count on daily traffic jams in Westminster.

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