Timing their meeting to end during rush hour, Hampstead business and political leaders pleaded yesterday with Maryland's transportation secretary to begin work on the Route 30 bypass.
"We're desperate up here," said Todd Winebrenner, president of the Hampstead Business Association. "Our survival depends on what happens on Route 30."
Town officials wanted state Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead to see how crowded Route 30 is at 5 p.m. Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Republican from the 5th District, said the meeting "was timed so they would drive out of town at the rush hour."
But even before Mr. Winstead left Town Hall to see the line of cars heading north on Route 30 toward Manchester and southern Pennsylvania, he offered hope that the $35 million bypass project could begin sooner than anticipated.
The course he advised is an unusual one and not a sure thing. Mr. Winstead suggested that local government officials work with businesses to raise part of the money to build the new road.
Assuring town officials that he understands the need for the bypass, he emphasized that the state has not budgeted any money for acquiring land or for construction.
Mr. Winstead told the approximately 30 people at the meeting that he "would be willing to go to bat and try to see" whether a public-private partnership would work, "We'll work with you and do the best we can under the [monetary] constraints," he said.
Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin and local businessmen said the heavy traffic on Route 30, the town's Main Street, has become unbearable.
"We've become gridlocked," said Richard C. Matthews, owner of a tire business and a retired 5th District delegate. "If we don't watch it, we're going to lose our way of life."
The six-mile bypass, which would begin south of town at Wolf Hill Drive and continue to north of Greenmount, has been on planning maps since the early 1970s. State officials are designing the road now but have not promised money for rights of way or for construction.
"We've waited too long for construction of this road," Carroll County Transportation Planner Steven Horn said. "There's probably no other project in Carroll County that will help to revitalize a community more."
Business owners interested in moving to the county change their minds when they see the traffic on Route 30, said Michael Burden, controller of Ridge Engineering Inc. in Hampstead and chairman of the county Economic Development Commission.
A bypass would provide access to industrially zoned land north and south of town, which would help attract new business, said John T. Lyburn, the county economic development director.
A successful public-private partnership to raise money for the bypass would impress state officials, said State Highway Administrator Hal Kassoff.
"It would have a dramatic impact," he said. "We'd like to sit down with you and negotiate."
Woodsboro, in Frederick County, recently formed a public-private partnership to build a bypass, Mr. Kassoff said. Local government officials and businesses there raised $3 million toward the $5 million cost of the one-mile road.