WIDENING 2.4 miles of Route 32 to four lanes in Howard County cost state taxpayers $55 million this decade, linking the bedroom community of Clarksville with Interstate 95 to the south.
Now the State Highway Administration suggests that the $80 million price tag to do the same for 6.5 miles of Route 32 in Carroll County, linking South Carroll with Interstate 70, may be too costly to accomplish in the near future, perhaps not for another 10 years or so. That's while the state continues work on a wider Route 32 connecting the same Clarksville to Interstate 70 in the north.
That Howard has more political clout, and more money, than Carroll is apparent. But there is something fundamentally wrong when Carroll's most significant highway need is routinely put on the back shelf by the state.
If widening Route 32 is "a critical component of the fiscal health of Carroll County," as its budget director claims, if it is "absolutely essential" to the county, as Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown insists, then it is time for Carroll to make this highway its No. 1 priority, without ambivalence or equivocation.
Carroll needs the four-lane connection between South Carroll and I-70 to promote economic development, not just to improve traffic flow for more bedroom residential growth.
Effective development of the 130-acre state Warfield complex at Springfield Hospital Center, soon to be released to the county, will depend on improved highway access to I-70, in the form of a wider Route 32. Rapidly growing South Carroll is ripe for &L; industrial/commercial takeoff. But it can't attract major businesses and employers without at least the guarantees of that transportation improvement.
Much as towns along Route 140 and Route 30 want their bypass projects, getting them high on the state's list, Carroll's primary focus should be on widening Route 32. Howard County officials support that project, too, as a beneficiary and not as a competitor. State and county traffic studies this year have advanced the cause. Carroll County owns most of the land, which would minimize cost and delay.
Now the county must make its case for the highway as an economic development generator, to convince the state to approve and accelerate this important project.
Pub Date: 12/20/96