$4 million plan proposes prettier, safer two-mile stretch of Harford Road

City officials to discuss boulevard design with residents at meeting Feb. 4

January 21, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The neighborhoods bordering Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore are some of the city's most charming. Even Mayor Martin O'Malley lives there.

Harford Road, however, is a different story, some residents say.

"It's ugly," said Jeff Sattler, president of the Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville Association.

Now, after five years of planning, Sattler's group and city officials are moving ahead with a $4 million plan to change the look of the street along a two-mile stretch. The project calls for installing 20 raised medians with trees, from Argonne Drive to Bayonne Avenue, that residents hope will transform the heavily traveled road into a more scenic, slower and safer boulevard.

Sattler and city officials will display and discuss the preliminary designs at a meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 4 at St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church. Work is not expected to begin until spring 2004, and the designs can be changed.

Discussions concerning the street began in 1997 when residents complained that the six-lane stretch of asphalt was an eyesore that belied the quaint appeal of the neighborhood of narrow streets branching off Harford Road, north of Herring Run Park.

"The [road] is a hodgepodge that is not very visually appealing," said Pam Rogers, a Lauraville resident.

According to preliminary designs, the medians would turn three southbound lanes into two, allowing for dedicated left-turn lanes. Northbound lanes would not be affected.

During rush hour, both southbound lanes would be open to traffic, and during off-peak times, parking would be allowed in one of the two lanes. City planners determined that the road was more than adequate for the traffic it handles and that the loss of one lane would not create additional slow-downs.

The medians are intended to provide a safe halfway point for pedestrians who must brave crossing six lanes. Nearly 25,000 cars and trucks travel Harford Road every day, according to the city's Office of Transportation. Many of those vehicles are moving 10 to 20 mph faster than the posted speed limit of 30 mph.

Harford Road is one of nearly a dozen main arteries that provide commuters access to downtown from points north, west and east of the city. James Hall, a city planner, said the project is "very rare" for such a major thoroughfare.

"This will change the whole aura of this part of the city," Hall said.

Sattler said he believes the project will rid the road of its industrial appearance and attract businesses and residents.

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