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Group seeks to ease traffic


With hopes buried for a Westminster bypass, a "visioning" group last night proposed alleviating traffic congestion along Route 140 by bringing new jobs into town to reduce commuting and starting a local transit shuttle.

The recommendations were made to the Westminster Common Council by Richard L. Sheckells Jr. and J. Richard Kuzmyak of the Maryland Department of Transportation. They organized a "visioning" group of about 20 state, county and local officials, Carroll County employers and residents. The group, which has been meeting for 15 months, was formed to examine alternatives to the bypass around Westminster, a $300 million project killed by the state because it failed to meet the governor's Smart Growth initiatives.

This is the first time the state has worked closely with a municipality to determine how it could address traffic concerns while adhering to Smart Growth policies - efforts to curb suburban sprawl - implemented in October 1997, Kuzmyak said Monday.

"We are trying to show this Smart Growth thing makes sense," he said.

In 20 years, traffic on Route 140 through Westminster is expected to increase from 50,000 to 75,000 cars per day, according to estimates from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The visioning group attempted to examine the underlying causes of the congestion around Route 140 and address them. Their recommendations, which the council approved, included expanding services within walking distance of Western Maryland College, improving and adding sidewalks along Route 140 and investigating use of the rail freight system to decrease to truck traffic.

New jobs for professionals and entry-level workers would reduce the number of commuters using Route 140 to and from Baltimore and elsewhere, the group said. A shuttle service to points along Route 140 and to downtown and Western Maryland College also would help reduce traffic.

Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan, who was part of the visioning group, was supportive of the recommendation to develop Route 27 into a "gateway" into the city between Route 140 and Main Street.

"It seems to me that area would be ripe for fixing up - widen the road, make it into a boulevard and develop it as commercial property and office space," he said. "It would tie together two commercial districts in the city."

Other more traditional solutions to alleviate congestion on Route 140, presented by a second working group in April, included:

Putting underpasses at the intersections of Route 140 and Englar Road, Center Street and Route 97 North, making it unnecessary for through traffic to stop at stoplights.

Using traffic circles to ease the number of cars at busy intersections.

Restricting traffic from Cranberry Road, Gorsuch Road and Sullivan Road onto Route 140 during rush hour.

Yowan said these improvements would cost about $100 million, one-third the cost of the bypass.

"This is still not cheap, but it's still less than a bypass," he said.

Other plans for Route 140 have begun. The state of Maryland plans to widen the bridges on Route 140 over Route 27 and Route 97 North starting in July 2002.

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