The State Highway Administration has asked the county to appoint a citizens group to assist in a study of the Route 26 corridor through Eldersburg, one of South Carroll's most congested roads.
The state and Carroll have each committed $200,000 to the initial phase of the study, which will look at a segment of the highway from Route 32 to the Baltimore County line at Liberty Reservoir. Carroll has included funding for construction improvements to the highway, also known as Liberty Road, in its capital improvement budget.
The committee, to be set at no more than 15 people, would include residents, business and community leaders, and county representatives who would meet four or five times during the next few months.
"The group would work on steering the planning process and would bring in different points of view," said Steven Horn, county director of planning. "This is standard procedure for state process."
The Board of County Commissioners expects to review a list of potential appointments provided by the county planning department and name the committee by the end of next week.
"Cooperation with the state on this project is vital and cooperation starts with naming a work group," Horn said. "The state places a high priority on making sure the public is informed."
Committee meetings will be open to the public. The state will schedule sessions with community groups as part of the study and hold public hearings.
Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he is hesitant to gather citizen input for improvements that are already planned and funded by the county. He fears the committee will delay the project, even though state funding is essential.
More than 32,000 vehicles a day travel through Eldersburg on Liberty Road, making it one of the busiest routes in Carroll. It also has one of the county's highest accident rates. Intersections are clogged and few alternative routes have been completed.
Three months ago, the state began what is expected to be an $800,000 study of ways to improve traffic flow and reduce accidents on Route 26.
"We could come up with an excellent plan that considers function, safety and appearance," said Horn. "These are good goals to work for."
Among the upgrades are parallel service roads and extension of Macbeth Way to Route 32 and other community streets to divert local traffic from the highway.
Dell said yesterday he would prefer that the comments of the citizens committee be limited to aesthetics and landscaping along the corridor.
"If citizens want input on landscaping, that is different," Dell said. "They deserve an opportunity to see how their community looks."
The study is expected to take about a year and design planning could occur simultaneously, said Horn.
The state owns most of the right of way for the project and officials do not expect environmental issues to delay it, Horn said.