State to improve Towson roundabout (again)
The State Highway Administration is taking another crack at the Towson roundabout -- aiming to improve safety and traffic flow at an intersection that has bedeviled engineers for decades.
The agency said it will launch a $632,000 project at the roundabout in the heart of the downtown area Tuesday, requiring a series of lane closings that will continue through late summer.
But the SHA said this round of work, unlike previous projects, is not intended to fix something wrong but to make permanent some of the changes it got right in 2008.
”Basically this is the final version of the improvements we did in 2008,” said Fran Ward, SHA District 4 community liaison.
Ward acknowledged that the agency has made numerous tweaks to the design of the roundabout since it opened in 1998 at a complicated intersection that was the scene of congestion and many crashes when it was controlled by signals.
She said the 2008 work used temporary measures such as reflective paddles and temporary curbs so highway engineers could study how the changed traffic patterns functioned through different seasons. Now, Ward said, after two years of observing the effects, the agency is satisfied that the changes should be made permanent.
The new phase of the project will include upgrades to pedestrian crosswalks, relocation of gutters and sidewalks and installation of concrete curbs. Finally, the highway agency will resurface the roundabout and paint new lane markers.
The SHA said the work will take place at night and will not affect daytime commuters. Lane closings will occur from 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday until 5 a.m. the following morning. According to the agency, the work will be done in six phases, including five that will correspond with the five legs of the roundabout -- East Joppa Road, Dulaney Valley Road, York Road north, York Road south and Allegheny Avenue/West Joppa Road.
Not everybody is happy with the changes.
Todd Zeigler of Rodgers Forge said he seldom patronizes businesses in the area because of the roundabout. He said he used to like the traffic flow there before traffic engineers permitted daylong street parking on York Road and narrowed parts of the traffic circle from two lanes to one.
Zeigler said that before he moved to Maryland he was municipal manager of Spring Grove in York County, Pa. He said Spring Grove officials who visited Towson came away so impressed that they installed a roundabout at a difficult intersection in their community.
But that was before the 2008 redesign.
“The functionality has taken a step back with their changes,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an improvement.”
Here's the SHA's document outlining the specifics of the closings:
State Highway Administration
Towson Roundabout in Baltimore County
Permanent Geometric Improvement Project 2011
Project Start: April 26, 2011
Estimated Completion: Late summer 2011
Five Legs in Five Phases
Overnight lane closures and detours of various legs of the roundabout Sunday – Thursday nights, between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. the next morning; no lane closures or detours on weekends.
Phase 1: Close right lane on westbound East Joppa Road to right lane northbound Dulaney Valley Road (MD 146)
Phase 2: Close right lane on southbound Dulaney Valley Road and detour northbound York Road (MD 45) north of roundabout
Phase 3: Close right lane on southbound York Road (north of roundabout) and detour westbound Allegheny Avenue and West Joppa Road (one-way section)
Phase 4: Close right lane on northbound York Road south of roundabout; close left lane on southbound York Road south of roundabout; close left lane on northbound Dulaney Valley Road; and detour northbound York Road north of the roundabout
Phase 5: Close right lane northbound York Road south of the roundabout, detour eastbound East Joppa Road; and close left lane of westbound East Joppa Road
Final Phase (Phase Six)
Weekend Roundabout Closures: Close and Detour Entire Roundabout on one or two weekends for final paving work and installation of new pavement markings – projected to occur late summer 2011