Bel Air traffic study a good idea, but solutions will be hard to come by [Editorial]

April 30, 2013

It's no mystery that the crossroads of Routes 1 and 24 in Bel Air is a traffic tangle, so it's perfectly reasonable that the Bel Air town government would want to spend at least a portion of an unexpected $200,000 highway windfall on a study of the intersection.

When it comes down to doing the study, though, figuring out what's wrong isn't really the issue. Figuring out how to disperse traffic at busy times of day is going to be the part that, if someone can figure out, is worth spending a fair amount of money on.

There's no reason, however, to expect a good resolution to the difficult problem at hand.

The intersection of Routes 1 and 24 is at the retail nexus of Harford County, with the county's sole shopping mall at one corner and major shopping complexes at the other three. Within a few hundred yards to maybe a mile in each direction on Route 1 and Route 24 is at least one other major intersection with its own set of problems. Add to that at least a half a dozen other minor intersection traffic lights or parking lot entrances and exits, and the magnitude of the problem begins to come into sharp focus.

In a lot of ways, the problem is every bit as challenging as the traffic mess that prompted the coil of ramps and overpasses on Route 24 near the I-95 interchange and the intersection with Tollgate Road and Route 924. The multimillion dollar fix that opened just about two years ago at that intersection was a solution of sorts, but it was hardly ideal.

Back at Routes 1 and 24, it's clear shifting a few turning lanes or changing the paint on the roadways won't do the trick. It's going to take something expensive and fairly drastic, possibly as drastic as what was built at the other end of Route 24, to put a dent in the problem.

Unfortunately, even as roadways are enlarged only after traffic becomes a problem, newly enlarged roadways all too often lead to the kind of business and residential development that further adds to traffic.

In other words, there's no end in sight, when it comes to the traffic problems at Bel Air's main crossroads.

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