Officials seek funding green light for bypass


The long-awaited Hampstead bypass - a $35 million road to ease traffic congestion on Route 30 - tops the list of eight highway projects the Carroll commissioners will discuss with state transportation officials tomorrow.

County officials plan to urge the Maryland Department of Transportation to start building the Hampstead bypass, which has been planned since 1960. The bypass would divert traffic, much of it trucks and tractor-trailers, from Hampstead's Main Street, Route 30.

"We know the state is trying to wrap up engineering and land acquisition," said Jeanne Joiner, county director of planning. "We want to see about construction funding."

Republican state Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of Carroll's legislative delegation, said the northern county highway should become a reality soon. The bypass would run roughly parallel to Route 30 from near Wolf Hill Drive to Brodbeck Road.

"It is our No. 1 priority," said Haines. "This bypass is approved with much of its funding in place. We are going to get it."

Carroll is one of 24 stops the Maryland Department of Transportation is making on its annual tour to present its proposed six-year highway improvements program, discuss future and continuing projects and gather local input on transportation issues.

"We want to know what are the county's projects and if our program meets the county's needs," said Erin Henson, spokeswoman for the transportation department.

The commissioners also will use the meeting to bring up their second most pressing need - reinstatement of a Manchester bypass, a project the state scrapped nearly three years ago. A Hampstead bypass could increase traffic on Main Street, Manchester, Carroll officials said.

"We need to let the state know the Manchester project is important to us, too, and that we still want it," Joiner said.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening killed bypasses for Westminster and Manchester, saying those roads would promote sprawl. The county and Westminster are reviewing alternatives and improvements to several key intersections along the highway in the city, but Manchester officials remain committed to a bypass.

Other projects that the commissioners are requesting include improvements to Route 97, from Route 140 to Pleasant Valley Road near Carroll County Regional Airport, and studies of Route 97 at Kate Wagner Road in Westminster and Route 140 in Finksburg.

In South Carroll, the commissioners will seek improvements to Route 97 south of Route 26 and design planning for Route 26, from Route 32 west to Route 97. A similar study of Route 26 through Eldersburg is nearly complete and could result in nearly $20 million in additional lanes, a median and landscaping.

Carroll officials have long sought a widening to four lanes along Route 32 from Eldersburg to Interstate 70. A planned widening of the route from Clarksville north to the interstate faces opposition from environmentalists and residents. Until that segment is complete, Carroll has little hope of getting funding for its portion of Route 32.

"We have made it a major push for a north-south route for us," said Joiner.

Before finalizing its highway budget, state transportation officials review information from the regional meetings to determine what, if any, funding might be available for additional projects. The budget goes to the General Assembly in January.

"As far as system maintenance, the state will probably fulfill all those requests," said Haines.

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