Traffic-calming program to expand

Balto. Co. officials say revised rules will allow speed bumps, other devices on more roads

December 30, 2007|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,Sun reporter

Sue Dailey calls Moorgate Road the Indianapolis 500.

Cars whiz through her Dundalk neighborhood, building speed on the wide roads and ignoring stop signs, Dailey says.

She and others in the Eastfield Stanbrook Civic Association collected signatures of neighbors who agreed that speed bumps or other road modifications, such as concrete islands, were needed. They asked Baltimore County officials to look at possible solutions.

But when traffic engineers came to study the problem, they determined that the street did not qualify for the "neighborhood traffic-calming program."

They suggested, Dailey said, that she and other concerned residents on Searles, Kirkleigh and Church roads stand out at peak traffic times and wave signs at the passing motorists to slow down.

"We felt very let down," Dailey said.

Hundreds of other county residents in communities from Arbutus to Essex who have requested speed bumps and other traffic-slowing measures, such as curbs called "chokers" that jut out into a road, have also been disappointed during the past several years, according to the county's Department of Public Works.

Now county officials are preparing to relax the qualifications for the program that began four years ago.

Fewer vehicles will have to travel roads where residents see a speeding problem to qualify for a speed bump. And under the revised requirements that take effect next month, the drivers won't have to be traveling as fast.

For example, streets can now qualify for a speed bump if at least 100 cars use the road during its peak hour of use and travel at speeds 10 mph above the posted limit.

Under the old rules, 150 vehicles had to travel on the road during the peak hour.

The changes will generate at least two dozen additional speed-control projects next year, at a cost of about $730,000, county officials say.

Twenty-one of the projects expected to be done in 2008 had been requested by residents but failed to meet the county's older, stricter criteria. Those neighborhoods, including Dailey's, will not have to reapply but will be scheduled to have speed bumps, traffic circles or chokers constructed, county officials said.

"I think the changes will make [the program] more equitable," said Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who requested last year that the county's planning board review the criteria.

To allow more streets to qualify, the county's planning board approved loosening the program requirements last month. Neighborhoods that now will qualify will be notified by county officials in January, said Keith Link, head of the county's traffic-calming program.

Baltimore County developed the traffic-calming program in 2003, allowing communities to petition for speed bumps, concrete funnels and traffic circles.

Speed bumps and other measures designed to slow traffic have been installed on about 60 residential streets since the program began, Link said.

Some residents say yellow stripes on the road detract from the value of the nearby homes. And others call the speed bumps inverted potholes.

Still, the program has been so wildly - and widely - popular that there is always a waiting list. And about 80 percent of those who have asked for traffic-slowing devices have not met the standards set by the county, said David Fidler, a spokesman for the county's Department of Public Works.

In the Dundalk area, where no neighborhoods had qualified for speed bumps, the relaxed rules are expected to generate seven new projects.

"This is an issue that resonates with residents countywide, not just in my district" said Olszewski, a Dundalk Democrat.

When neighborhood groups were turned down, even after they collected the required number of signatures or after engineers found that drivers were in fact speeding, Olszewski said, "It was frustrating to a lot of people."

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat, said some residents in his district were only a few cars short of the volume required to have a speed bump installed.

In some parts of the county, such as rural areas, neighborhoods still will not qualify for the traffic-calming measures, according to county officials.

Speed bumps are not appropriate for roads that are not heavily traveled or on streets with a speed limit of more than 25 mph, traffic engineers say.

They're not recommended for winding or short streets either, officials said. And traffic planners point out that they can slow the response of emergency vehicles.

But when used, speed bumps, chokers and traffic circles are effective, county officials say. For example, studies show that speed bumps generally reduce average speeds 5 to 10 mph, Link said.

Dailey says she's thrilled that the neighborhood may now see some relief.

"Anything they implemented would be a godsend," she said.


Neighborhood traffic-calming program changes:

New: Streets can qualify with traffic speeds 10 mph above the posted limit and a minimum of 100 vehicles using the road during the peak hour.

Old rules: Required 150 vehicles on the road during peak travel hour.

New: Streets can qualify with average traffic speeds 3 mph above the posted limit if 250 vehicles use the road during the peak hour.

Old rules: Required an average speed of 7 mph above the posted limit.

Number of rejected projects that will be constructed in 2008 under the new criteria:

In District 1, including Catonsville and Arbutus: 3

In District 2, including Pikesville and Ruxton: 0

In District 3, including northern Baltimore County: 0

In District 4, including Owings Mills and Randallstown: 3

In District 5, including Towson and Perry Hall: 5

In District 6, including Essex and Fullerton: 3

In District 7, including Dundalk and Edgemere: 7

[Source: Baltimore County Department of Public Works]

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