Traffic circle will challenge Towson drivers Motorists, walkers to be educated for opening next month

January 17, 1998|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

With the anticipated opening of the state's first urban roundabout, in Towson, weeks away, state and county officials are gearing up for a campaign to educate drivers and pedestrians.

At a State Highway Administration briefing in Lutherville yesterday, traffic engineers explained the workings of the $2 million roundabout that is being built to ease heavy traffic at York, Dulaney Valley and Joppa roads, and Allegheny Avenue. It is expected to open Feb. 2, weather permitting.

"We don't want people to travel around the circle forever like in the Chevy Chase movie," said SHA spokeswoman Valerie Burnette Edgar, referring to a scene in the comedy "National Lampoon's European Vacation."

Officials are blitzing area stores, libraries and community

organizations with literature on maneuvering the roundabout, and Baltimore County police officers will be stationed at the intersection starting Jan. 26 to hand out pamphlets.

"People are creatures of habit," said Officer William Naff of the traffic resources management division, explaining the efforts to familiarize people with the new traffic pattern.

More than 28,000 motorists travel daily through the crowded intersection. Backups are the norm as 3,600 cars squeeze through Towson during peak hours.

The roundabout is part of a $4.3 million county-state project to revitalize downtown Towson. Brick sidewalks, new lighting and tree plantings are being added along York Road in the 300, 400 and 500 blocks and part of the 600 block to spruce up the county seat. The work is expected to be complete in early spring.

Once the roundabout is in use, motorists will maneuver without traffic signals, yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalks -- a state law -- and then to traffic in the two-lane roundabout. Cars will travel in a one-way circular pattern with speeds expected to be below 25 mph.

"Yielding the right of way is the key thing to remember when walking or driving the roundabout," said Linda Singer, SHA community liaison.

The SHA has shepherded the construction of five other roundabouts, in Howard, Cecil, Washington, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties. But the 190-foot-long Towson roundabout -- actually oval-shaped -- is its largest. Officials are hoping the new configuration will alleviate problems at the intersection.

"This is certainly an innovative solution to a complex traffic situation in Towson," SHA engineer David Malkowski said.

Police will be stationed at the intersection at 10 p.m. Jan. 30, when the intersection closes for the weekend while a temporary roundabout configuration is marked with barrels and cones. Traffic will be detoured during the closing, although entrances to area shopping centers and businesses will remain open, SHA officials said.

Police again will be on the scene when the roundabout opens, offering guidance to motorists and pedestrians.

But until the project is complete, in early summer, "it is still going to be a construction zone," Edgar said.

"People are going to have to pay attention and be alert."

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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