Douglas B. Riley -- lawyer, community activist and Baltimore County councilman -- has added another, although unofficial, job to his resume -- Towson Traffic Czar.
The Towson councilman's determination to stop talking about congestion on many of the roads in the county seat, and do something about it, has led to a six-month experiment, beginning May 1, that will reroute cars and trucks in two heavily traveled areas.
One major change involves putting a barrier across York Road at the intersection of York, Dulaney Valley and Joppa roads and Allegheny Avenue, near the old Hutzler's building.
That would block southbound traffic, forcing it off the narrow York Road and onto Bosley Avenue, the six-lane west Towson bypass, to cut congestion on Towson's main street.
But the most controversial change -- and the part of the plan that has really riled some of Mr. Riley's constituents -- calls for putting up a barrier at the corner of Burke Avenue and Hillen Road to stop traffic from moving west on Burke Avenue toward York Road. Cars and trucks instead would be diverted north on Hillen Road to the Towson bypass and then back to York Road.
Mr. Riley said that arrangement would move traffic away from the crowded residential neighborhoods just east of Towson State University and reduce congestion at the intersection of York Road and Burke Avenue.
But some residents say that while things are bad now, Mr. Riley's proposal would only make them worse. And they plan to tell him that tonight at a 7:30 meeting at County Council Chambers in the old courthouse in Towson.
Beverly Battenfeld, who lives at the corner of Hillen and Brook roads, said she was so upset she broke down in tears during a call to the councilman's office Thursday to protest the changes that would reroute traffic past her house. She is worried about her two young children and their friends playing outdoors while traffic speeds past her back yard.
Susan Gray, who lives across the street from Mrs. Battenfeld, only 15 feet off two-lane Hillen Road, said she is so incensed by the proposal that she had 500 fliers printed, warning residents of traffic mayhem if the plan goes forward.
Mrs. Gray, who also has two small children, said the traffic-pattern changes would increase the noise and danger at her home and those of her neighbors. No change is better than Mr. Riley's plan, she argued.
Steven Radebaugh, owner of a Burke Avenue florist shop, is worried about a small section of Burke Avenue -- one block east of York Road between Maryland Avenue and Knollwood Road -- that would still be a two-way street. He's afraid drivers will try to thread their way through neighborhood side streets searching for new routes to and from York Road.
Councilman Riley conceded that traffic will increase for some residents along Hillen Road, but he maintains that the plan will decrease traffic congestion for the majority of residents in the area.
Mr. Riley also is ". . . surprised by how much opposition there is to trying [this] on a test basis."
If the plan doesn't work, the barrier at Burke Avenue and Hillen Road can be removed, or another plan can be tried, he said. Mr. Riley added that the changes will not be evaluated until next fall and a final decision will be made then.
Ideas for altering traffic patterns in central Towson have been discussed for years. These changes stem from recommendations from the Towson Plan, the blueprint for growth that was approved by the County Council late last year.
Nonetheless, Mr. Riley concedes that trying a few of the changes may have "opened a Pandora's box" of constituent discontent.
Robert T. Grossman, president of the Towson Manor Village Community Association, agreed.
"There are going to be an awful lot of people there [at the public meeting tonight] to protest this," he said.