Regional plan includes widening county roads

Owings Mills, Hunt Valley congestion targeted

August 08, 2007|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,Sun reporter

Congested roads in growing Owings Mills and White Marsh are scheduled for widening in the next decade under a new long-range regional transportation plan, but relatively few other upgrades to roads maintained by the county have been proposed to handle projected increases in traffic in the next 30 years.

Although the population of the county is expected to increase about 13 percent and the work force about 17 percent, the draft plan, "Transportation Outlook 2035," includes few county-managed road projects.

That contrasts with several nearby counties, which project greater population and work force growth as a result of the military base realignment plan.

"We're in a very, very critical funding situation with the state right now," said Emery Hines, the county's manager of transportation planning. He said he hopes more federal funds will be available when a new long-range plan is drafted four years from now. The state has $40 billion in unmet transportation needs.

The regional plan, drafted by state and local officials from across the region, calls for more than 80 highway, transit, and bike or pedestrian path projects in Baltimore and the five surrounding counties from 2013 to 2035. Public meetings are being held this month to discuss the plan, and the final version is to be released in October.

The preliminary plan does include significant improvements to roads in Baltimore County maintained by the state. On the west side, Reisterstown Road is to be widened to six lanes between Garrison View Road and Owings Mills Boulevard in 2013. A new interchange would connect Interstate 795, the Northwest Expressway, with Dolfield Road and Pleasant Hill Road in 2015 to alleviate congestion caused by traffic at Owings Mills Town Center.

"There's a tremendous amount of traffic in that area," Hines said. "It's very striking to see how much traffic is there on the weekend, it looks like rush hour."

On the eastern side of the county, Philadelphia Road is to be expanded to four lanes between Rossville Boulevard and Cowentown Avenue in a project planned for 2014, and an interchange is to be built at the White Marsh Boulevard-Philadelphia Road intersection in 2015.

In the northern part of the county, the long-planned construction of a connection between Paper Mill Road and Shawan Road in Hunt Valley is scheduled for 2013.

Motorists heading west on Paper Mill must turn right on York Road, then left on Shawan to reach Interstate 83 or the town center, a quirk known as a dogleg. The new road would expedite east-west traffic in the Hunt Valley area.

Several county projects are designed to improve transportation across the region, including the widening the Beltway to eight lanes in two sections, between I-83 and I-95 north in the northeast and between I-95 south and Security Boulevard in the southwest. Another project, scheduled for 2020, involves widening I-95 south from the Beltway to the Howard County line.

Construction of the Red Line, an east-west mass transit system that would stretch from Patterson Park to Woodlawn, would ease travel between the city and the county and would give workers a new way to commute to Social Security, Hines said.

Phyland John Lansing, retirees who live at Charlestown in Catonsville, said they are happy that the Red Line construction is planned.

"I think the Red Line has the potential to bring both sides together," Phyl Lansing said after reviewing the plan at a public meeting Monday night in Towson.

Some representatives from a community group in the northern part of the county said they were disappointed that more road improvements were not planned for their area.

"The commercial area in Loveton has just expanded exponentially," said Kirsten A. Burger, president of the Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council. York Road and Interstate 83 are often clogged through that area, she said.

Hines, the county transportation manager, said other projects have been planned in that area in the past but were rejected because of community opposition.

"In many places in the county, people feel that they don't want new roads or widened roads because it would bring more traffic," he said.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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