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Emmitsburg looks to Pa. for help with bypass

Ashley Andyshak
News-Post Staff

(9/18) As town planners and residents take up the discussion of how and where to build a bypass around the town, some are looking north for help.

Many of the motorists who would use a bypass around Emmitsburg are commuters from southern Pennsylvania, so several residents from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line are taking the lead in seeking local support and, eventually, funding for the project.

William Reinke, a councilman in Carroll Valley, Pa., said he's already started meeting with other Pennsylvania municipalities to present the bypass idea.

"Ultimately, we're looking for federal money … but they're not going to buy into it if the state hasn't bought into it," he said.

Reinke said he hopes to present a uniform resolution of support for governing bodies to sign, a resolution that could help obtain both state and federal funding for the bypass.

The resolution would be non-binding and nonmonetary, he said. It would simply note that the municipality supports looking into the feasibility of an Emmitsburg bypass route.

A bypass route was part of the town's comprehensive plan in 1998, and is taking center stage again as the plan is updated for 2008.

An average of 8,000 vehicles travel Emmitsburg's Main Street, or Md. 140, every day, according to Jakubiak and Associates, the planning firm assisting the town with its plan update. Commuters from developments in Liberty and Freedom townships in Pennsylvania could add 4,000 to that number.

In addition, the new comprehensive plan holds the potential for more than 900 new residential units and even more nonresidential development in town.

North vs. west

Jakubiak and Associates has proposed a bypass network using both new and existing roads between Md. 140 west of town and U.S. 15 to the south.

Reinke said he's addressed his own borough council as well as that of Fairfield, and that he hopes to talk to supervisors in Freedom and Liberty within the next month. He hopes to have supporting municipalities sign a resolution by the end of the year.

Patricia Smith, Fairfield borough council president, said her council hasn't discussed the idea yet, but borough committees might discuss it at their separate meetings this month.

Bill O'Neil's term as Emmitsburg commissioner is up this year; he said he is not seeking re-election so he can devote more of his free time to working on the bypass project.

O'Neil said he has talked with staff from Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-Pa.) office about the issue, and said he thinks a northern bypass, instead of the proposed western route, is a viable option.

Boyle Road, which stretches from Pa. 16 in Freedom Township to U.S. 15 just north of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, already has an overpass over U.S. 15, and the area has ample room for a cloverleaf interchange, O'Neil said.

"That's a logical location for a potential bypass," he said. "(It will) enable traffic to get around Emmitsburg, which is what it's trying to do anyway."

O'Neil said such a bypass would be "largely Pennsylvania-driven, but Maryland plays a large role since they are directly impacted by the flow of traffic."

Who pays?

Catherine Forrence, a former member of the town's planning and zoning commission, now a member of the Frederick County planning commission, has also been instrumental in raising awareness of the need for a bypass.

Forrence said she asked the county planning commission to prioritize an Emmitsburg bypass in its transportation budget two years ago but has since changed her focus.

"The county shouldn't be giving Emmitsburg money to build a bypass; it's not the county's problem," she said.

Forrence said money for a bypass should instead come from a combination of Maryland and Pennsylvania state funds as well as federal money.

Otherwise, "Maryland could just start tolling at the border," she said.

Renke, O'Neil and Forrence said they don't know what a final bypass plan would look like, but the route must address both commuter and truck traffic.

As the issue gains momentum this time around, more and more Emmitsburg residents are speaking up.

The town hall boardroom was filled at a meeting of the planning and zoning commission last month after former town planner Diane Walbrecker passed out flyers on the issue along Mountain View Road.

"This just shows that if people understand the facts, they will come to a meeting," she said.

Commissioner Glenn Blanchard said he'd like to see even more town residents show up at meetings to voice their opinions.

"We've had a number of residents living on the west side of town show up … but I'd still like to see more residents who actually live in town show up. I think our meetings could be moving along faster if we get more people who actually live along Main Street," he said.

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