Signs point Towson visitors in right direction

25 installed as part of downtown 'wayfinding project'

May 24, 2011

Coming to Towson is a necessity for many Baltimore residents because it's the county seat, and they have business to conduct with the government or the courts.

Now, as the first phase of the Towson Signage and Wayfinding Project nears an end, 25 signs have been installed in downtown Towson to direct drivers where they want to go.

Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, sees the signs as indicators of a community heading in the right direction.

"Towson is poised for revitalization and growth, and every initiative is an important step in that process," he said.

The consensus for years among Towson's movers and shakers has been that the signs are needed in a county seat in which there are four public parking garages, assorted parking lots, a circuit court, a district court and a courthouse — all in different places, as well as Towson University, Goucher College and a regional mall.

"So many people don't have a clue where they are going," said Justin King, president of Tomorrow's Towson, an organization representing business and community factions.

Tomorrow's Towson was formed in 2006 to bring the Urban Design Assistance Team to Towson to promote enhancements, including the signs for the Wayfinding Project.

Smaller pedestrian signs are planned for the future.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said he's pleased that the distinctive, new, blue-and-white signs "will help direct visitors to Towson's main public destinations."

County traffic engineers are pleased about how the signs direct traffic.

The signs promote the use of the Bosley Avenue bypass "as the best way to reach county government and Circuit Court from most approaches," according to Jay Doyle, the Office of Planning employee who managed the project for the county.

"Traffic should not be using the downtown portion of York Road, or the traffic circle to get to county government," Doyle said, noting that the signs should function to help relieve congestion in the roundabout.

An additional boon for drivers and pedestrians is the fact that all the garages and lots have been named, and directional signs have been placed along the prime routes by which they are reached, Doyle said.

The county's now-defunct Office of Community Conservation provided most of the money for the $115,000 project, which began in 2009, Doyle said.

The Baltimore County Revenue Authority is picking up some of the tab, and the Department of Public Works and the Office of Economic Development and Planning also have been involved.

The money paid for design work and analysis by Philadelphia-based MERJE, and for fabrication and installation services provided by Georgia-based Architectural Signing.

The back of the signs are equally noteworthy. They feature symbolic renderings of the Old Towson Courthouse cupola or the Hampton Mansion cupola at Hampton National Historic Site.

"Architectural Signing did wonderful work," he said.

In the months ahead, the revenue authority is expected to implement a design-compatible program involving signs on the inside and outside of their garages, he said.

All of these efforts will help dispel "the misplaced perception" that Towson lacks parking, Doyle said.

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