Benfield restriping plan questioned Some in Severna Park say priority for road is safety, not convenience

July 14, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

For years, Lou Herrmann says, he has risked his life trying to cross two lanes and make a left-hand turn from his Fair Winds community into the westbound lane of Benfield Road.

"The only way to get out is the middle lane," said the 74-year-old Severna Park resident. "You go out into the middle lane and sit there until you can blend in. It has been a lifesaver."

Now Herrmann, who has lived here for 35 years, and other motorists may have bigger problems to deal with if the county moves forward with plans to restripe the single eastbound lane of Benfield to turn it into two lanes.

The Department of Public Works has proposed adding the second lane just east of Windward Drive and extending it east to Knollwood Drive.

The work could begin as early as September, said Ed Meehan, deputy director of highways for the county.

Meehan said the restriping project became a priority after a traffic study completed last winter. The study showed that about 950 cars pass through the intersection of Benfield and Jumpers Hole roads during the evening rush hour and that adding the second lane would increase that figure by another 500 vehicles.

"It's just stop and go," said Meehan, who traveled on the road to witness the congestion. "You have to wait several cycles before you can get through. If the light wasn't there, there wouldn't be any delay at all."

Meehan said restriping was chosen over alternatives, such as expanding the road, because it is the easiest and would not cause a massive delay.

Meehan noted that restriping has been successful at the intersections of Ritchie Highway and Jumpers Hole Road and is planned for the stretch of Ritchie between Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard and Cypress Creek Road and Ritchie between Jones Station Road and College Parkway.

"I think there will be a lot of people pleased with any improvement to get home and not have to sit in traffic for 10 minutes just to go a mile and a half," he said.

But motorists who use Benfield and residents who live off it argue that safety is more important than convenience.

Patricia Reid, who has lived in Kensington for 19 years, complained that accidents have increased since Benfield was widened to four lanes in 1984. The expanded road was the scene of a reported 118 accidents during one six-month period, she said.

"That's because there were so many entrances and exits between Kensington Avenue and Jumpers Hole Road," Reid said. "And it has increased with the growth of more developments and establishments."

But Meehan said he would expect a decrease in the number of accidents after the project is completed. "There is a growing problem with people running traffic lights when they are red," he said. "If we can get people through in a reasonable amount of time, we can reduce that."

Dan Nataf, chairman of the public works committee of the Greater Severna Park Council, said the congestion is not new and has been tolerated by motorists and residents.

"It's not like there's any new, significant backup on Benfield," Nataf said, adding that the council voted 21-1 to oppose the project. "It's really a matter of their convenience to get this going. I don't feel comfortable with it."

Nick Carlucci, who has lived in Fair Winds since 1972, said the re-striping won't help because the additional lane extends for only 2,000 feet before it merges back into a single lane. "The end is a bottleneck," he said.

But there are some who say the second lane would be an incentive to use the road. Mark Jacobs, who drives on Route 100 instead of Benfield to get to and from work, said, "I would have to say that if Benfield was improved, I'd use it."

Pub Date: 7/14/96

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