Case for a Westminster bypass Carroll County: Belated claims of sprawl don't justify removal of vital project from regional plan.


FOR NEARLY two decades, plans for a Route 140 Westminster bypass have been proposed and analyzed and debated to the point of exhaustion. A practical northern-loop alternative was placed in the regional planning document.

Land owners with visions of development have been put on hold until the government gets the go-ahead and the money to acquire their property. About 100 households would be affected by the 6.9-mile bypass from Reese Road to Hughes Shop Road.

Now come objections from environmental groups alarmed by the sprawl effect threatened by the bypass. They also claim the $200 million price tag is grossly underestimated, a contention disputed by state highway officials.

They argue that the bypass should be eliminated from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council's master plan as contrary to the dTC state's policy of concentrated "smart growth." (The project must be included in the regional planning group's plan to receive federal approval.)

Bypass opponents are upset that the Route 140 segment would destroy considerable housing and use up agricultural land to boot. The highway segment would spur further development along the route instead of focusing growth in the existing development corridor.

But the hard fact is that growth continues along Route 140, and already bad congestion gets worse.

Some 50,000 vehicles a day pass through the Westminster stretch of Route 140; within 10 years, the number will top 70,000, according to state projections.

Despite modest improvements made to this major east-west artery and despite the fact that funding is still years away, a Route 140 bypass is inevitable to handle the strain of increasing traffic.

The county has already acquired some properties; others are reserved by the subdivision process.

There's no persuasive reason for the BMC to remove the Westminster bypass from its master plan.

! Pub date: 5/19/98

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