Towson road renovations set to begin $4.3 million project to redo busy junction into traffic circle

Landscaped trim also due

Year-long work aims to revitalize central business district


One of Baltimore County's most traffic-clogged intersections is about to become even worse -- temporarily.

Construction on the long-awaited streetscape and traffic roundabout project in the heart of Towson will begin next week, starting a yearlong, $4.3 million county-state endeavor to revitalize the older business district.

Roads and sidewalks will be torn up. Drivers will have to navigate orange traffic cones and closed lanes. And pedestrians will face bumpy walkways.

But when construction at the intersection of York, Joppa and Dulaney Valley roads and Allegheny Avenue is completed in fall 1997, visitors and commuters should find a pleasant change. They will maneuver through an oval roundabout connecting the busy roadways to see a downtown county seat spruced up with brick sidewalks, trees, planters, benches and decorative lighting.

State Highway Administration officials, who yesterday announced details of the construction schedule, stressed that most work on the Towson Enhancement Project would be done from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays.

Traffic, which numbers about 28,000 vehicles a day, would not be affected during the holiday season, from Nov. 27 through Jan. 13.

"This project addresses the future of one of Baltimore County's most congested intersections," said Parker F. Williams, head of the State Highway Administration. "We will try to keep disruptions to the business community at a minimum."

Many downtown merchants have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. The street renovation, which will begin in the spring and be done block by block, affects the 300, 400, 500 and 600 blocks of York Road.

"I'm concerned as to the reality of what is physically going to happen and how it will impact business," said Bernyce Brothers, owner of Once Again Boutique in the 500 block of York Road. "I'm not against it. If it turns out as rosy and wonderful as they make it sound, I'll be happy."

In addition to making the core of Towson more attractive, the project is expected to ease the flow of traffic through the continuously congested intersection.

The Towson traffic circle -- the SHA's first urban roundabout -- will be 190 feet long and 50 feet wide with a landscaped center island.

After yielding to pedestrian traffic, drivers will ease into vehicle trafficwhen space allows, traveling in a circular pattern and exiting at one of five roadways. Speeds are expected to be below 25 miles per hour.

"This will be our sixth and most challenging roundabout," Williams said.

Other, smaller roundabouts in the state are located in Howard, Cecil, Washington, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties.

Susan K. DiLonardo, executive director of the Towson Business Association, acknowledged that traffic congestion is a concern.

"Will [the roundabout] solve it? We don't know, but it will be an improvement," she said. "And it will make a positive impact on the downtown district."

Currently, several storefronts on York Road are vacant. Steve Lafferty of the county Office of Community Conservation said he hopes the revitalization project will lure new businesses to Towson.

"The Towson Enhancement Project -- the roundabout and the streetscape -- are a critical piece of our community conservation effort in the county," he said. "It is important for the older districts to be able to compete [with the malls]."

The first signs of construction will begin Monday as workers prepare to demolish buildings in the 600 block of York Road. The next phase, beginning in late January, will include replacement of the 100-year-old water main on York Road.

History buffs are waiting to find out whether the water line is made of wood or cast iron. If it is wood, the SHA has promised to give pieces of it to those who want such an artifact, said Gradon Tobery, assistant district engineer of construction.

When work on the roundabout begins in the spring, nighttime detours will be necessary to redirect traffic while the approach routes are being prepared. Then, traffic signals will be removed from the intersection, which will be modified into the roundabout configuration with construction drums, barrels and signs until permanent curbs are installed.

David Malkowski, SHA district engineer, said the existing intersection is approaching a failure level, with an E rating from the agency.

"With the roundabout, we can bring that to a good solid B-plus."

Pub Date: 11/28/96

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