Civic leaders and state highway engineers explained last night a $1.4 million project to redesign Ritchie Highway in the Brooklyn Park area and make the road safer.
"This particular section of Ritchie Highway probably hasn't been touched in 20, 25 years," state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Democrat, told more than a dozen residents who attended the meeting at Brooklyn Park/Lindale Middle Schools.
The project will be paid for with state transportation and federal highway funds, said Lawrence E. Elliott, an assistant district engineer for traffic in the State Highway Administration (SHA). Construction is scheduled to begin next spring on the first leg of the project. Access to businesses and residences will be preserved during construction.
Night construction is planned to minimize the inconvenience to businesses and motorists, said Edward Meehan, an SHA district engineer.
The project will focus on improving safety at the intersections of 11th and 16th avenues, Church Street and Hammonds Lane. These intersections have had above-average rates of traffic accidents due to poor road design and heavy use, officials said.
Ritchie Highway at Church Street had 86 accidents from 1990 to 1992, the most in the area, according to the SHA. At 11th and 16th avenues, there were 19 and 14 accidents respectively in 1992, Mr. Elliott said.
Senator Jimeno, who represents the Brooklyn Park area, called the accident rates some of "the highest rates in the county, probably the state."
Most of the accidents are rear-enders, side-swipes or turning-angle collisions, attributable to the fact that there are no exclusive or protected left-turn lanes in the area. Cars must turn from an open traffic lane, Mr. Elliott said.
The redesign project will put protected left-turn lanes at intersections so cars can leave the stream of traffic when turning. Currently, only some intersections have left-turn lanes governed by traffic lights.
Left-turn traffic signals would be added northbound and southbound at the intersections of Route 2 and Hammonds Lane, Church Street and 11th and 16th avenues. Other improvements include widening the median strip.
The improvements to the highway will be made without changing the overall 62-foot width of the roadway, officials said.
If funding can be secured, a similar project will be done on Ritchie Highway from Interstate 695 to the Baltimore City line and from Hammonds Lane into Glen Burnie, officials said.