ANNAPOLIS – Treasurer Richard Dixon called recommendations to deal with traffic tie-ups around Manchester “worthless” and “meaningless” and demanded to see more valid options on how to deal with the problem.
The recommendations were made by a working group formed after the rejection of a $70 million bypass project designed to divert traffic around Manchester. The project was killed because it was inconsistent with Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s Smart Growth program, an initiative to control urban sprawl.
“You folks have had two meetings on this and you’ve come up with worthless options,” Dixon said during a Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday.
The recommendations included the placement of roundabouts to control the flow of traffic; neighborhood revitalization, including sidewalks and aesthetic enhancements; parking restrictions; and other improvements.
The transportation department disagreed with Dixon.
“I think the community doesn’t feel that way,” said Gregory Pecoraro, assistant secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation. He said he believes the community and elected local officials “are making considerable progress.”
Citizens in Carroll County are concerned that the approved construction of a bypass around nearby Hampstead will sharply increase the traffic volume along Route 30 through Manchester, and that’s why another bypass is needed there.
The bypass plan has been deferred since it was put on the state’s transportation plan in 1965.
Dixon, who is from Carroll County, has criticized the state’s decision to kill the bypass.
It’s not the first time that Smart Growth has conflicted with community priorities. The governor’s rejection of other bypass projects and a police training center in Sykesville have spurred controversy in several Board of Public Works meetings.
Building a bypass around Hampstead and not Manchester is “folly,” Dixon said.
“This is mind boggling that we’re talking about building a bypass in one town but four miles away we won’t build one,” he said.
The recommendations for alleviating traffic will not be effective, Dixon said.
“We’re going to have some long meetings here. It baffles my intelligence to think I’d just sit here and think (the recommendations) would do anything to improve the flow around Manchester,” Dixon said.
“I’m more than hot under the collar. I would hope by the next meeting you will come back with some valid options,” Dixon said.
The Board of Public Works is scheduled to hear a presentation on the issue on May 5.
“I hope after we make a full presentation that you’ll feel different,” Pecoraro said.
“I doubt that,” Dixon shot back.
The recommendations are short-term alternatives to help the traffic flow in Manchester.
“They continue to be developed. They’re not set in stone,” said Chuck Brown, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation.
Carroll County residents still hope the long-term solution to traffic bottlenecks will be the bypass, said Manchester Town Manager Phil Arbaugh.
“The majority of people here think a bypass is the solution,” he said. “I hope the bypass isn’t dead in the water or we’re wasting a lot time.”