On The Street, Mixed Views On Roundabouts

The City Envisions More Traffic Circles, But Not Everyone Is Cheering

May 25, 2009|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,arin.gencer@baltsun.com

Shannon Robertson regularly passes through the 33rd Street intersection near Lake Montebello on her way to her mother's house, where she drops off her children during the week.

"It's such a busy intersection, and there are so many different directions that traffic is flowing in," she said. "I've seen many almost-accidents."

Which is why replacing the traffic lights with a roundabout "might be a good idea," said Robertson, of West Baltimore, who was biking around the lake with her two daughters Sunday morning.

Her reaction was shared by several others taking in the warm weather - and is one that might please city officials looking to bring Baltimore around to a more roundabout way of life.

Officials are seeking federal funds to help turn intersections into five traffic circles. The other proposed locations include: Key Highway and Light Street; 33rd Street at University Parkway; Park Circle, where Reisterstown Road, Druid Park Drive and Park Heights Avenue meet; and the Seton Hill intersection of Druid Hill Avenue and Paca and Centre streets. Though not included in the $22.8 million request, a sixth roundabout could be placed where Cathedral Street, Maryland Avenue and Mount Royal Avenue meet.

The concept is not entirely foreign to the city: There are traffic circles at the end of President Street in Harbor East and on Wilkens Avenue in Southwest Baltimore.

Jerry Spivak, who lives in Roland Park, took a break from rollerblading around Lake Montebello to consider the proposal.

"I'm 100 percent for roundabouts," said Spivak, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. " They beat traffic lights. ... This is common sense."

A circle could help traffic flow, said East Baltimore resident Cornell Williams, allowing people to keep moving instead of waiting a while for a green light - a problem Williams said he encounters at other city intersections.

But while Williams and others support the idea, some expressed concern, particularly at Key Highway and Light Street in Federal Hill.

"When it's rush hour, it's just going to be too much traffic for a circle to handle," said Darren Eynon, who lives down the street from the intersection and witnesses the backup of cars taking the highway to Interstate 95 in the mornings.

Cindy Cummins, walking down Light Street with her husband, Howard, and their Yorkshire terriers Sunday afternoon, agreed."I hate them," Cummins said of roundabouts. The Owings Mills resident has dealt with less-than-courteous drivers and delays trying to get through the Towson roundabout that connects Allegheny Avenue and Dulaney Valley, Joppa and York roads.

"It's confusion - it's always confusion," said Edward Wu, who lives in Frederick and was crossing Key Highway Sunday afternoon.

Wu, who is originally from Taiwan, said people there tend to avoid roundabouts because they usually slow traffic, and aren't "cut and dry" like lights. And in Montgomery County, where he works, "whenever people see those things, people get a little bit nervous," Wu said.

But to Theresa Ignatowski, whose sixth-floor apartment looks out on the intersection, the news was welcome.

She often hears the honking behind Light Street drivers unfamiliar with the area, who fail to move when their lights turn green.

"It's a great idea," Ignatowski said. "Anything's better than [what there is] now."

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