Another Round with Roundabouts

May 24, 1994

Seemingly as fast as an automaker's assembly line produces another car, that's how quickly the State Highway Administration has located troublesome intersections where old-fashioned roundabouts, or traffic circles, can solve the problem.

Since installing its first modern roundabout a year ago in the western Howard County community of Lisbon, the SHA has pinpointed several other vexing crossroads where it would like to put them. One of these is at Maryland Routes 2, 408 and 422 in southern Anne Arundel County's Lothian, which is due to be reconfigured by this fall.

The Lothian crossing has been governed by only flashing red and yellow lights -- as was the Lisbon intersection in its pre-circle days -- and has been the location of more than a few accidents caused by drivers plowing through without heeding the signals.

Among the other sites are Routes 140 and 832 in Taneytown in Carroll County and Routes 63, 58 and 494 in Washington County's Cearfoss.

The crossroad added most recently to the list is one that has bedeviled drivers and traffic engineers for decades -- the crazy confluence of York, Joppa and Dulaney Valley roads and Allegheny Avenue in Towson, Baltimore County's seat.

Various possible 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 (a Jersey barrier blocking southbound traffic on York). A roundabout, however, sounds like the best idea yet devised for this notorious crossing.

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 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. The project is still being discussed and probably wouldn't reach fruition for at least a year. Baltimore countians will therefore be looking toward Anne Arundel after this fall to see if the example of Lothian's roundabout offers hope of a solution to Towson's traffic woes.

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