Repairs along Main Street are nearing completion


State Highway Administration officials hope to clear construction barriers from Westminster's Main Street by Oct. 31.

And the last section of the East Main Street reconstruction project -- along Washington Road to Quintal Drive -- may be finished by Thanksgiving, said Ron Ritz, SHA on-site project engineer. It was scheduled to be done in the middle of this month.

The two-year project to reconstruct a mile of road from the intersection of East Main Street and Longwell Avenue to Washington Road and Quintal Drive began in April 1993.

Completion of the project can't come too soon for merchants in the construction area. Some of them have posted hand-lettered signs beside the traffic detour signs, telling customers they are open for business.

"We've got to push on to get the job done," Mr. Ritz said. He said the highway agency is pressing to get work completed at the key intersection of Main Street and Washington Road. The busy intersection has been closed since Sept. 19.

The closing "has really hurt our business a lot," said Debra Young, manager of the Sheetz convenience store at the intersection. She said she couldn't estimate the percentage loss, but has had to reduce employee hours because business has been slow.

"A lot of people don't know the store is open," Ms. Young said.

She said she posted a sign at the eastern end of Main Street by the road closing sign to let people know that local traffic can get through to the store.

Mr. Ritz said the construction on Washington Road was sectioned from East Main Street to Leese Auto Sales, to keep access to the used car sales and car repair business open during construction.

But owner Will Taylor, who bought the business after the death of former owner Charles R. Leese, said the project is "making our lives miserable."

He said customers confront the road closing sign at Washington Road and Green Street and don't understand that they can drive around the sign to reach his business.

"Am I happy? No. Am I living with it? Yes," Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Ritz said the next construction section will be from Leese Auto Sales to Quintal Drive, which will allow the business' customers to gain access via Main Street.

Construction crews also have been cutting into the new asphalt at intersections and at "bubbles" -- curved concrete jutting out from the sidewalk -- on East Main Street to install concrete pavers made to resemble brick. The pavers are to mark pedestrian crosswalks.

Douglas R. Rose, district engineer for the highway administration, said tapes or plain concrete would serve the same safety function of alerting drivers. But for Westminster, "in keeping with the historic nature of the city, we tried to get something that is close to brick," he said.

Mr. Ritz said the pavers have passed skid-resistance tests in wet and icy weather. "They're probably safer to walk on than the blacktop, because they're rough like concrete," he said.

The East Main Street work is behind schedule because of rain in August, construction halts to allow archaeologists to study old wells and a coal chute uncovered in the project, and other delays such as brief shutdowns for services at a Main Street funeral home.

Richard G. Ervin, archaeologist for the highway administration, directed the work of photographing and reburying the two stone wells and coal chute. One well and the chute were at the Shellman House, owned by the Historical Society of Carroll County. The other well was at the former Wheeler Chrysler-Plymouth dealership at 279 E. Main St.

Mr. Ervin said the wells and chute were reburied because they weren't in imminent danger from the road construction.

"It was less costly for us to do minimal recordation and cover them back up, which also allows these resources to be preserved intact," he said.

The construction crews also unearthed some bottles on Washington Road, but they turned out to be early 20th century bottles, Mr. Ervin said. He said it wasn't necessary to record the bottles, but just cover them over and continue construction.

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