What has the Lisbon roundabout wrought? Look no further than the drawing boards of State Highway Administration officials who envision several more traffic circles in Maryland. Among the vexing intersections that the SHA plans to solve with roundabouts are Maryland Routes 2, 408 and 422 in Lothian (Anne Arundel County), Routes 140 and 832 in Taneytown (Carroll), and Routes 63, 58 and 494 in Cearfoss (Washington).
The crossroad added most recently to the list is one that has bedeviled drivers and traffic engineers for decades -- the confluence of York, Joppa and Dulaney Valley roads and Allegheny Avenue in Towson, Baltimore County's seat.
Various solutions have been offered over the years. Some, mercifully, stayed on paper (then-County Executive Spiro Agnew's underground tunnel linking York and Dulaney Valley roads, for example); others were tried and found lacking (Towson Councilman Doug Riley's Jersey barrier blocking southbound traffic on York). A roundabout, however, sounds like the best idea anyone has had for dealing with this notorious crossing.
It's doubtful that any of the future roundabouts would be considered if not for the success of the Lisbon traffic circle, installed a year ago at a former four-way intersection that was once rated among the most dangerous in the state. Five years prior to the roundabout's opening, 40 accidents occurred at the site, injuring 49 people. But in the 10 months after it began operating, the Lisbon roundabout saw only one minor sideswiping. Local residents had fought the change, but they were immediately won over by the circle.
The Towson circle, though, will prove a special challenge. It would have heavier traffic volume and more entry and exit points than the standard four-way intersection. In addition, its construction at this busy spot would likely create more hassles than did the building of the roundabout in rural Lisbon.
These and other concerns aside, the Towson circle could be a good permanent solution to the crossing's traffic troubles, while also providing easier pedestrian movement and a landscaped island that can only improve the area's appearance. Few Baltimore countians would realize it, but if Towson experienced saner traffic flow, it would be owed to an experiment that began last spring in a small western Howard County community.