Neighbors critical of Towson U. stadium data

Group calls estimates in traffic study inaccurate

January 21, 2000|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

A traffic and parking study commissioned by Towson University for a planned $28 million sports complex is obsolete and inaccurate, a neighborhood group opposed to the project has said.

A consultant hired by Rodgers Forge Community Association to critique the study concluded that doubling the seating capacity at the university's Minnegan Stadium could create major traffic and parking problems in surrounding neighborhoods.

"Since they unveiled this expansion plan, we have not stopped speaking out against it," said Janice Moore, a spokeswoman for the Rodgers Forge group. "The traffic study the school released is based on old data from 1994 and 1997.

"They don't seem to understand that they will change the quality of life if they continue with their plans. Trash, noise, traffic and parking -- it's going to be horrible."

The project would increase the stadium's seating capacity from 5,000 to about 11,000, add a four-level field house and expand the concession area. Completion is scheduled for early 2003.

The university's study, compiled last year by Rummel, Klepper & Kahl of Baltimore, concluded that the Towson area could absorb additional traffic, and that because spectators would use parking lots and garages at surrounding hospitals and in the downtown business district, parking would not be a problem in residential neighborhoods.

But the community association, which is trying to block state funding for the second phase of the stadium project, challenges those conclusions, saying they ignore plans for growth in the area.

The association's report, prepared by Everett C. Carter, director of the Transportation Studies Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, says that the university's study is based on old data. Carter also notes that the study failed to say how increased traffic during events would affect the ability of ambulances to get to hospitals, and didn't say who would pay for road improvements.

The Rogers Forge association worries that the stadium expansion would increase traffic and noise, create a scarcity of parking and reduce property values.

University officials stand by the RK&K study.

"Rummel, Klepper & Kahl [is] a well-known and respected company," said R. Wayne Edwards, the university athletic director. "We have confidence in the findings of their study and their recommendations. We continue our dialogue with the community representatives relevant to their concerns."

Towson University is seeking $7 million during the legislative session for the next phase of construction, on the stadium's north side. Last summer, the school installed artificial turf at the stadium, began architectural design work and conducted impact studies using $3 million in state funding.

Hoping to block the next phase, Rodgers Forge residents have renewed a letter-writing campaign urging state lawmakers to deny funding for the sports complex.

In its latest packet to lawmakers and the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, the association argues that future development in the Towson area was not considered in the university's traffic and parking study.

Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital has announced plans to build a new hospital in the next few years and to lease two older buildings for office space. Greater Baltimore Medical Center plans to buy 14 acres to expand its Towson campus. And Moore noted that the university plans to expand its Center for the Fine Arts and renovate a building at 7800 York Road.

"What is going to happen with all this expansion?" Moore said. "It's going to be like squeezing all that traffic through a toothpaste tube."

"We want to emphasize that we want Towson University to further succeed as a state university," community association member Diane Wittner said. "We don't want to be seen as attackers or complainers. We are merely trying to defend and maintain the quality of life in our community."

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