Without major road improvements, severe congestion foreseen in area New traffic study targets Route 32 intersections

January 29, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Without major improvements to its main arteries and construction of service and connector roads, South Carroll is facing severe congestion as early as 2002.

A modest five-year estimate includes 1,500 new homes and several major businesses that would increase traffic by about 2 percent annually. The resulting traffic impact will lead to "unacceptable operations during both the morning and evening peak hours at all intersections along Route 32, including the primary crossroads with Route 26," according to a new traffic study.

The County Commissioners received copies yesterday of the $68,000 Freedom Area Traffic Study prepared by Whitney, Bailey, Cox and Magnani, a Towson engineering company.

"We looked at roadways in Freedom, did accident analyses and made projections based on existing conditions," said Steve Horn, bureau chief for the county planning department. "For the most part, roads are operating adequately now, with some trouble spots. But, with development, the roadway network continues to deteriorate into the unacceptable range."

The most notable trouble spots are all intersections on Route 32, south of Route 26. The Route 32-Raincliffe Road intersection already is rated a failure, because of volume and inability of motorists to bypass left-turning vehicles.

The county hopes to make Route 32 its gateway to Interstate 70 and Interstate 95.

"The farther south you go on Route 32, the more the traffic volume increases," said James W. Holls, an associate manager with the consulting company. "The Freedom Avenue intersection is showing signs of the same problems. The highway is attractive for all local and regional trips."

The report also looks at Route 26 and Oklahoma Road, which has the highest accident rate in the county, and makes recommendations to improve the intersection.

The study devoted most attention to Freedom's primary intersection: Routes 26 and 32. They recommended double left lanes in all directions -- exclusive lefts, not shared with through traffic.

"Left turns are high volume and always generate capacity problems," Holls said.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said he would expect developers -- particularly the commercial developers eyeing sites near the intersection -- to bear the cost of improvements.

Brown said he would like to break down the report to "talking points" and then put priorities on the issues the county can handle.

The consultants are recommending road connections to divert traffic from the highways. Nineteen of those roads are on the 1977 Freedom miniplan, a blueprint for growth now being revised. But the $17 million construction cost makes those connections unlikely.

"Service drives limit turning and keep local commercial traffic off the 26 corridor," said Holls.

Creating "road clubs" among developers can help defray road construction costs, Holls said. Each developer takes rTC responsibility for a road segment.

"The clubs are avenues to bring all the players together," he said. "The plan has worked in Arundel and Harford counties. You get more roadway improvements and avoid piecemeal construction."

The 33-page report evolved from 10 months of vehicle counts, accident data reviews and interviews with area residents, particularly the Citizens Advisory Council, which is helping to revise the growth plan for the Freedom area.

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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