When the news got out in the early summer that state highway officials were planning to widen Harford Road to five lanes at two key intersections, much of the Parkville community was panicked.
The Parkville Business Association, a 70-member collection of small businesses strung together between the two intersections in question, held a community meeting.
Roughly 75 people attended and all but one person said they were against the proposal, because they feared widening the two intersections will encourage more traffic, faster speeds and the eventual widening of all of Harford Road to five lanes, ruining what's left of the small town character of the unincorporated area, which sits just inside the northeast section of the Beltway in Baltimore County.
Since then, leaders in the business association have negotiated somewhat of a compromise over one of the intersections, but are stuck on the second. A community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Parkville VFW Hall at 8132 Harford Road.
Tom Costantini, branch manager of a local savings and loan and member of the Parkville Business Association, said the conflict arises out of a basic difference between the community and state highway officials.
"They don't want to slow traffic down," he said. "We do."
Already, Costantini said, average speeds on Harford Road exceed 40 mph, even though the limit is 30 mph.
"We have a lot of senior citizens and children in the area," he said. "We need to slow down the traffic so people can cross the road."
Dick Harrison, a district engineer for the State Highways Administration, said the $1.6 million plan to resurface Harford Road and widen the Taylor Avenue and Putty Hill Road intersections is necessary.
"That road needed some attention," said Harrison, himself a Parkville native.
As it continues north from the city line, Harford Road goes from a four-lane road to a two-lane road, with curbside, metered parking on both sides.
During rush hours, north and southbound traffic at both intersections can be jammed up behind cars making left-hand turns onto Taylor Avenue or Putty Hill Road, Harrison said.
An average of 23,000 cars feed through the Taylor Avenue intersection and 28,000 cars through the Putty Hill intersection each day, Harrison said.
The original plans called for widening the Taylor Avenue intersection from 46 to 55 feet, creating four traffic lanes and a center left-hand turn lane. Curbside parking would have been taken away.
But local businessmen, already concerned about tight parking, protested and were able to convince state highways to preserve curbside parking at the Taylor Avenue intersection.
The road will still be widened to five lanes, but the existing parking spaces will be saved by cutting out part of the sidewalk, Harrison said.
Now, the fight is over the Putty Hill intersection.
Parents and administrators of St. Ursula's Catholic School, a primary school a block north of the intersection, want officials to put in a traffic signal at the school to make it safer for kids to cross the street.
But, so far, state highways officials have refused, saying it's unnecessary and too close to the current traffic signal.
The fear remains, however, that state highways officials will be back in a few years to widen all of Harford Road to five lanes.