Lakeside speed worries parents

Traffic on New Town road also has officers' attention

October 31, 2002|By Justin Beck | Justin Beck,SUN STAFF

You'll find them there like clockwork, mornings and afternoons Monday through Friday - dozens of adults, mostly mothers, pouring out of their apartments, condominiums or townhouses to make sure their children are safe getting on and off the school buses near the increasingly dangerous Lakeside Boulevard in Owings Mills.

People like Iesha Chadwick of Red Run Apartments.

"I am scared to let them wait at the corner alone," said Chadwick, who has two children at New Town Elementary school a mile away.

"It's not that it's a bad neighborhood, it's just that cars go so fast here I want to be there when they get off the bus to make sure nothing happens to them."

When she can't make it, she sends her brother, Tyree Williams.

Like many residents of the booming section of New Town in Owings Mills, Chadwick moved out of Baltimore with her family to escape the noise and dangers associated with city life.

So far, so good - except for speeding on the heavily traveled Lakeside Boulevard, which functions as New Town's main street. The speed limit is 35 mph.

"We certainly recognize it as a problem. I have pulled over close to 50 people in the past week for traffic violations on the two-mile stretch of Lakeside Boulevard that runs through New Town," said Sgt. Bruce Aris of the Garrison Precinct, which oversees the New Town area.

"I have started a file on it and am making all of my officers aware of Lakeside Boulevard as an area for concern."

Some residents fear that continued development in the area coupled with the opening of a new high school next fall will only compound Lakeside Boulevard traffic problems.

No one has been killed in a vehicle-related accident on Lakeside Boulevard. But the number of accidents on the four-lane roadway, which is divided by a narrow concrete median, nearly doubled in three years.

In 1998, according to police records, 43 accidents occurred on Lakeside Boulevard; by last year, 84 had occurred. Figures for this year are not available.

Some residents see the New Town traffic problem as a reflection of the recent building craze in that section of Owings Mills. The influx of more people has led to too many drivers and not enough access roads out of these new communities to Interstate 795, they say.

New Town, according to the 2000 Census, was the fastest growing area in Baltimore County in the 1990s. Its population swelled from 3,727 to 11,366 - a third of Owings Mills' 30,299 residents, according to the census.

A strip mall, a McDonald's restaurant and a Giant Food store contribute to the hurried environment on Lakeside Boulevard.

Three traffic lights over the two-mile stretch of the road do little to slow motorists.

"I suspected traffic problems when I moved in here three months ago, but not like this," said Jerry Klein of Stone Shop Circle. "Lakeside Boulevard is the main access road to Interstate 795 for this entire community. Traffic gets so congested in the morning that I've seen as many as three consecutive cars run a red light trying to get out of here.

"Eventually that kind of driving is going to lead to accidents. I have to believe the developers are going to put in another access road, otherwise something is seriously wrong with the planning here," Klein said.

The opening of a new high school next fall follows the introduction of New Town Elementary, which opened last year. Some residents fear that a high school will bring not only more traffic to the area, but also younger, less-experienced drivers.

"We are being careful to consider the impact of not only the high school itself, but traffic it may cause for the surrounding community," said Charles Herndon, a spokesman for Baltimore County public schools. "We are concerned for our students, staff and the New Town neighborhood."

With that in mind, school officials decided to build an access road on the northeast side of the school to lessen traffic on Lakeside Boulevard.

Sun staff writer Laura Barnhardt contributed to this article.

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