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Local officials debate solutions to Routes 140 and 30 problems; State withdraws money for two bypass projects


With the state scrapping plans for long-awaited bypasses for Westminster and Manchester, traffic jams will worsen on Routes 140 and 30, but local officials disagree on what options exist to remedy the situation.

A state delegate from Manchester believes a bypass is the only realistic solution to congested Route 30. Westminster's mayor hopes to resolve differences with the state.

Police and emergency officials in those communities say their services will not be affected, whether a bypass is built or not.

Change uproots plans

State planning officials announced Wednesday the removal of money designated for the Manchester and Westminster bypasses from the Consolidated Transportation Plan. The Hampstead bypass was not affected.

Motorists -- commuters, salesmen, shoppers, emergency responders -- endure the daily stop-and-go, rush-hour headaches along Route 140 in Westminster and Route 30 in Manchester. The roads are key state arteries that pass through Carroll and link the county to Baltimore.

On weekdays, an estimated 45,000 vehicles travel on Route 140. An estimated 35,000 vehicles travel Route 30, also known as Hanover Pike or Main Street, as it passes through Manchester's business district.

Delegate still wants bypass

Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Manchester Republican, called Wednesday's decision "unrealistic," after the state announcement.

The state's Smart Growth plans for Manchester call for widening the two-lane Main Street, a move Getty calls unrealistic in a historic rural town trying to revitalize its business district.

"It shows a total lack of understanding by state planning officials," Getty said.

Getty believes the only realistic solution is a bypass to connect with Hampstead's proposed bypass from the south and swing east around the town.

Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said he hoped modifications could be made to satisfy the governor's Smart Growth initiative, a plan to curb suburban sprawl and preserve rural areas.

Yowan believes the current widening of Route 140 in Westminster will suffice temporarily, but said, based on studies that project a traffic flow increase to about 75,000 vehicles by 2010, "a bypass eventually will have to be built."

The construction on Route 140 from Leidy Road to Route 27, a $4 million undertaking, is a first step. The bridge on Route 140 that spans Route 27 must be widened to add another lane, at a cost of $40 million to $50 million, according to state transportation officials.

Work will cause delays

That project will create another major bottleneck for Route 140 commuters, Yowan conceded.

"But any time you have long-term projects such as planning and building highways and bridges, there are lots of bumps in the road," he said.

Lt. Randy Barnes, a police spokesman, said officers and other emergency vehicles in Westminster have Green and Main streets as alternate parallel routes.

"We can no longer move left into the median to get by stopped traffic, but we still have access to the right-turn lanes," he said.

Barnes said patrol officers work in sectors and wouldn't likely use a bypass to respond to emergencies.

"Our average response time is two to three minutes," he said.

Lt. Leonard Armstrong, commander at the Westminster barracks of the Maryland State Police, said he had not considered what effect halting the bypass projects will have.

"Normally troopers out on patrol are nearby when calls are dispatched, so traffic congestion is not as likely to affect them as it does firefighters, who receive a call and must travel from a station," he said.

Doug Wheeler, chief of the Manchester volunteer company, said rush-hour jams usually are no problem for fire engines.

"[Motorists] generally get out of our way, pulling over as far as they can to let us through," Wheeler said.

Pub Date: 1/22/99

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