Clarke seeks way to slow residential traffic in the city

Councilwoman wants task force to set policy


Days after Baltimore officials unveiled a proposal to speed up traffic, a Northeast City Council member has introduced a measure to slow it back down.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke filed a resolution yesterday that would create a task force charged with adopting "traffic calming" policies for residential areas. The idea, she said, is to slow down traffic through neighborhoods.

The task force would be charged with making recommendations about how the city could streamline the process neighborhoods must follow to request speed bumps, bring in police to direct traffic or make roads narrower.

Clarke's proposal came three days after the council was briefed on a $23 million program to lessen congestion along the city's busiest corridors by upgrading 1,300 traffic signals.

Mayor Martin O'Malley's administration has promised the program will ease traffic within three months.

"We are engaged in a $23 million zoom, zoom, zoom," Clarke said at last night's council meeting, the last of the year. "I think it is important that we also begin working on a policy of traffic calming and pedestrian safety."

The proposal was referred to the Land Use and Transportation Committee and will not receive a vote for several weeks.

Similar traffic-calming initiatives have been used in cities across the country, most notably in Portland, Ore., and Cambridge, Mass.

In addition to a more extensive use of speed bumps, some cities have narrowed roads leading into intersections and installed traffic circles to slow traffic.

"Traffic calming has two principal effects: It brings speeds down close to the limit, and in some cases it also discourages cut-through traffic," said Richard Retting, chief traffic engineer with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Arlington, Va., group is funded by insurance companies.

The 19-member task force would be made up of neighborhood and school representatives, selected by the council and the mayor.

Under the resolution, the group would hold at least four public hearings before finalizing its recommendations.

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