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State rejects plans for bypasses; Two towns' officials hoped to divert traffic


For the second time in as many days, Gov. Parris N. Glendening has dealt a blow to plans for major Carroll County projects -- this time, multimillion-dollar bypasses for Westminster and Manchester -- that local officials view as vital to economic development.

Plans for the bypasses were deleted from the Maryland Department of Transportation's budget after state planning officials determined that they conflicted with the governor's Smart Growth initiative, a plan that aims to protect rural areas and stop suburban sprawl.

"The projects didn't comply with the Smart Growth legislation," said Marcia Kaiser, director of planning for the state transportation agency. "That left us with only one alternative: to remove them" from the department's capital budget, which was submitted to the General Assembly yesterday.

Bypasses planned for the Eastern Shore and Montgomery and Allegany counties also were eliminated from the budget. The funds allocated for the planning phases of the five projects -- a total of $1.5 million -- have been transferred to the State Highway Administration.

"The communities may have lost a project they wanted but they've gained our commitment to work with them to find smart-growth solutions to their traffic problems," Kaiser said. "We haven't walked away from these communities."

The Carroll bypasses are a county priority, as major arteries have become increasingly clogged by commuters and local traffic. Main Street merchants in Manchester and Hampstead say the traffic volume hurts business.

The Hampstead bypass, a project that state and county officials have been discussing for 30 years, was not affected by the state transportation department's budget cuts.

"It is devastating," Manchester Mayor Elmer C. Lippy Jr. said of the state's decision to shelve the Manchester bypass. "We'll have to pick up the pieces, start from scratch and try something else."

Route 30 (Main Street), the key artery for commuters traveling from northern Carroll County and Pennsylvania to the Baltimore area, "is just plain choked with traffic, and it promises only to get worse because of the tremendous influx of vehicles from Pennsylvania," Lippy said. "This bypass would have gone a long way toward alleviating that."

In Westminster, Route 140, which was built as a bypass decades ago, has not caused parking problems and congestion on the town's Main Street. However, Route 140 has become increasingly congested. More than 35,000 commuters travel the highway daily, according to state officials.

Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said he believes a bypass will win approval. "We're talking about a bypass that we didn't think would be built for 10 to 20 years," Yowan said. "It is my understanding that only part of the bypass doesn't satisfy the Smart Growth initiative. I think we have plenty of time to work with state officials and make any modifications that need to be made."

The setback announced yesterday is "the fourth or fifth time that a roadblock has been thrown up," said Yowan, a Smart Growth supporter. "I'm still optimistic."

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, a Westminster resident serving his third term, was less confident.

The bypasses, Dell said, are "so far off, I won't live long enough to see them. It's a disappointment, no doubt about that. We pay our funds to the state, and we should get our fair share back.

"The governor has been critical of our comprehensive master plan, but I think we're the only county in the state to have a concurrency management plan" that controls growth, Dell said. "Our agricultural preservation plan is one of the best in the state. I don't know what the governor expects. I am hopeful that he will give us an audience to discuss these things."

Commissioners Julia Walsh Gouge and Robin Bartlett Frazier could not be reached for comment last night.

This week, the governor also decided not to locate a $53 million police training center in Sykesville.

Pub Date: 1/21/99

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