Federal, state and county officials forged an agreement yesterday that could lead to a settlement of the divisive issue of where traffic from a new post office for South Carroll would gain access to Route 32.
Under the agreement, U.S. Postal Service officials will wait until a traffic study is completed before proceeding with construction of a post office on three acres at Bennett Road and Route 32 in the Eldersburg Business Center. The intersection has a traffic signal.
Local residents want access to the post office to be from Route 32 and Progress Way, an intersection that has no traffic signal.
Also under the agreement, the State Highway Administration will review three 1995 studies of traffic along Route 32, particularly at the intersections with Progress Way and Bennett Road. If those studies do not provide adequate data, the county will do more traffic counts and further analysis.
The traffic data, which should be available within a month, will let SHA officials determine whether a signal is needed at Progress Way and Route 32. After that, postal officials can create a site plan for a 21,550-square-foot building, more than four times the size of the current post office in downtown Sykesville.
"We have to use whatever data it takes to move this project along," said Joseph H. Mettle, a member of the county planning jTC commission. "Conditions at the present Sykesville post office are appalling."
A light at Progress Way and Route 32 would be the fourth signal in less than a mile along Route 32.
Steve Horn, county transportation planner, said the county will conduct the study, which he called a "relatively minor expense" that will be given top priority.
Who would pay for a traffic signal, which usually costs about $120,000, needs to be worked out. SHA officials promised a decision as soon as they review the studies.
"Obviously, this is an important issue to the community," said George R. Miller, state traffic engineer. "We can reach a decision within a month."
County Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he does not want the county to pay for studies or road improvements, which he feels are the responsibility of developers.
"The county can't be Santa Claus, paying the bills," Dell said.
He disagreed loudly with a colleague, Commissioner Richard T. Yates, who promised funding for the study. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown will have the deciding vote.
Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett applauded Dell's "stinginess with taxpayer money" and argued for the study.
Residents also have insisted that Postal Service plans conform to the covenants of the business center.
"We will do that to the extent that we possibly can with a standardized building," said Philip E. Wilson, manager of the postal facilities service office in Columbia. "You will see landscaping, berms and site plans."
Asked for one more review of another site, at Route 32 and Progress Way, Wilson said that would be difficult.
"We are so far down the road on money to make this site work, there may not be enough money in the budget to change," he said. "I won't slam the door, but chances of changing are extremely limited."
Pub Date: 12/13/96