By Justin Golec
Three highly congested intersections in Baltimore County may see improvements over the next five to 10 years so that they can better handle the large number of vehicles that pass through them each day, according to a discussion during a Planning Board meeting Thursday night.
Stephen Weber, a representative of the county Department of Public Works, said his agency has proposed downgrading the intersections of Pulaski Highway and 66th Street as well as Baltimore National Pike and North Rolling Road from a “D” to an “F,” or failing, designation.
In addition, he said the department wants to downgrade the intersection of Pulaski Highway and Ebenezer Road from a “D” to an “E” designation.
The downgrades, Weber said, will have no immediate effect on the drivers that travel through these intersections outside of worsening traffic. However, he said businesses and residents who live along roads with “E” and “F” designations are unable to secure building permits for office or residential expansions.
The three downgraded intersections are part of a new “transportation service map” designed by the public works department and presented to the Planning Board for review before it eventually goes before the County Council.
Weber said the three roadways fall on state highways. This means the county will collaborate with the state in trying to eventually upgrade the intersections but that the state would likely pay the bulk of the cost for the improvements.
“The state is really in the driver’s seat when it comes to planning these projects,” Weber said. “They usually take control at some point.”
Weber said residents should not expect the upgrades any time soon.
“These intersections and their changes are not going to be a fast process,” Weber said. “We try to look for less expensive alternatives and interim improvements first, which will at least get that ‘F’ designation back up to a ‘D.’”
The volume of traffic each intersection sees is a factor when giving out designations. Baltimore National Pike and North Rolling Road averages 64,000 vehicles per day, while Pulaski Highway and 66th Street averages 48,000 vehicles, Weber said. The Pulaski Highway-Ebenezer Road intersection has the least amount of traffic with 46,000 vehicles per day.
Paul G. Miller, the vice chairman of the Planning Board, expressed skepticism when discussing intersections that have earned failing designations in the past. He said that more intersections needed to be downgraded on the new map, including one located near his workplace.
“I have an office in Greenspring Station and the intersection is absolutely fatal,” Miller said. “I don’t know what the state or the county could possibly do to solve that problem in any meaningful way.”
Weber said the public works department studies intersections throughout the year. This entails observing an intersection for two hours in the morning, afternoon and night for a four-day period. This is usually done during the fall and spring when traffic and weather conditions are more ideal, he said.
Weber said the most important factor in determining an intersection’s designation is how often the final car in a line of vehicles makes a green light.
“An ‘F’ means that during that worst hour, 85 to 100 percent of the time not all cars are making it through that light,” Weber said. “An ‘E’ represents 70 to 84 percent and a ‘D’ is 30 percent to less than 70.”
Once the updated revisions are accepted by the Planning Board, the maps are sent to the County Council for final approval, which takes place in April. The new transportation service map is expected to go into effect in May 2015.