Within the next two weeks the Public Works Department will decide whether to close Woods Road in Lake Shore to through traffic, a plan the Chelsea Beach Residents Association supports but that some say could increase Fire Department response time.
Association members, long worried about area traffic, are now concerned about the increase when the Lake Shore Athletic Complex opens this fall. They say a barrier on Woods Road just west of 11th Street would solve the problem by diverting traffic to Mountain Road or Route 100.
Jim Schroll, a traffic engineer with Public Works, said the department will meet with residents and make its decision after the Fire Department completes a study of how the barrier would affect response times.
The barrier would prevent emergency vehicles and residents from using the peninsula's only shortcut to Severna Park and Ritchie Highway.
Gary DeGrafft, an association member, said, the 4-foot-high flexible plastic poles favored by the organization would not impede emergency vehicles.
"The problem [with that] is not only will police cars be able to get through, but any car will be able to get through," said Mr. Schroll, adding that Public Works has not decided what type of barrier would be used.
However, the barrier would be combined with a traffic signal at the intersection of Woods and Mountain roads. The signal would operate only when the park is open.
"If we can make the changes without adversely effecting the Fire Department, we'd like to see the changes in place by August, before the park opens," Mr. Schroll said.
Currently 8,000 cars use Woods Road each day -- 5,000 to 6,000 as a shortcut or through street. The athletic complex is expected to add 1,000 to 3,000 cars during peak hours.
"We're bottlenecked. We can't get out of our own community. We have a problem now and when you add 3,000 cars on the weekend, you have a bigger mess," said Mr. DeGrafft.
"The least expensive way to stop the problem is putting a barrier at 11th and Woods. It will cut down 80 to 90 percent of the cut-through traffic."
Howard Belford, who lives about 500 feet from Mountain Road on Woods Road, said the additional traffic during the park's peak hours "would be in evenings and on weekends when there's no work traffic using Woods Road."
Mr. Belford is concerned that increased emergency vehicle response times from the Earleigh Heights and Lake Shore volunteer fire departments could endanger residents on both sides of the proposed barrier.
"They put a lot of people's lives in danger for the benefit of a few," said Mr. Belford, former chief of the Lake Shore department.
His wife, Catherine, said, "The barrier would mean no other way out if an accident were to happen between Woods Road and Route 100. It would inconvenience an awful lot of taxpayers and put lives in jeopardy."
Barney Biancazilla, also a member of the Chelsea Beach association, said he is surprised by the opposition.
"Everyone who has been at the meetings has seen the alternatives and options and has agreed that everyone will be better off with the Woods Road barrier," he said.