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Trying times for motorists on Route 140 Road work close to Westminster slows the flow of traffic; 'It'll be a while'; SHA project to synchronize lights, patch surfaces


About the traffic on Route 140 around Westminster that began last week to squeeze into a single snail-paced lane -- get used to it. Construction crews from Genstar Inc. have started work on a $3 million contract that iounty seat. Workers also will patch the concrete surface of Route 140 from the intersection of Route 31 to Sandymount Road, and patch and resurface with asphalt from Sandymount Road to Route 91. Crews have begun installing the sensors.

As the patching work begins on Route 140, State Highway Administration (SHA) project engineer Mark Allen said he understands drivers' impatience. "It'll be a while" before the project is finished, he said.

Mr. Allen said he expects work to stop for about two months during the winter.

He said the contractor will not be allowed to work during rush hours. That means lanes cannot be closed for construction on Route 140 eastbound from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and on Route 140 westbound from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

When the new sensors begin controlling traffic signals on Route 140 around West minster, "You won't get a green light and then go half a mile and get a red light, so there will be more flow," Mr. Allen said.

He said he couldn't predict whether a driver who catches a green light at, for example, Sullivan Road, will get consistent green signals to Route 97 south. But traffic lights will be set so they all change at the same time.

Mr. Allen said a similar synchronization on the "Golden Mile" in Frederick has helped speed traffic along the section of Route 40, which is lined with shopping centers.

The Route 140 work is what SHA calls "system preservation." That means the project doesn't include widening or other improvements such as additional access lanes, said Robert Fisher, assistant engineer for construction in the Carroll-Frederick district.

Federal officials said Route 140 is expected soon to be designated a part of the National Highway System, but SHA officials said the listing won't speed a long-debated Westminster bypass or alternate improvements for the road.

The road's inclusion in the National Highway System will make future construction projects on Route 140 eligible for 80 percent federal financing, said Lisa Lyons Wright, an aide to Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, 6th District Republican.

Roads to be added to the list are part of an authorization bill being reviewed by a congressional conference committee that will reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions. But no disagreement exists on the highways list, Ms. Wright said. "There's no way 140 won't be included," she said.

In Maryland, the national highway designation this year goes to three cities not served by an interstate: Ocean City, Salisbury and Westminster.

The designation recognizes Route 140's significance, but "does not specifically earmark it for any special funding," said Steven McHenry, an SHA assistant division chief.

A task force studying options for improving Route 140 discussed a revised plan last month that would spare one of 15 businesses that would be removed and reduce the number of parking spaces that would be lost if the road is widened.

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