www.baltimoresun.com/explore/harford/opinion-talk/ph-ag-edit-light-0411-20120410,0,6574061.story

baltimoresun.com

The crossroads

4:26 PM EDT, April 10, 2012

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There's a real and serious problem in Bel Air at the intersection of Boulton Street and Gateway Drive. A traffic light at the intersection isn't going to fix it, at least not a traffic light alone.

Consider the maze of alleys and side streets between Bond and South Main streets across town and across the street from Bel Air High School. The only thing that prevents the alleys from becoming a congested tangle is the judicious placement of one-way signs to ensure southbound traffic continues south on Bond Street until it joins South Main Street in front of Bel Air United Methodist Church. If not for the alleys being do-not-enter streets on the Bond Street side of the block, short-cut seekers would rule the area.

Meanwhile, back over at Gateway Drive and Boulton Street, the intersection is the main choke point for people who live in two substantial residential complexes, as well as customers and employees of a substantial number of businesses. And don't forget the Bel Air Post Office, which is off of Gateway Drive.

All this Gateway Drive traffic needs to get out through Boulton Street, even as Boulton Street is also a main access point to Harford Mall and the Harford Mall Annex.

There's a major problem, however, with putting a traffic light at Boulton and Gateway: there's every reason to believe it would turn into a snarled mess because there's already a traffic light a few hundred feet away where traffic can cross from the Harford Mall parking lot to the lot for the mall annex on the opposite side of Boulton Street.

What's probably called for in this situation is a more comprehensive solution, comparable to the one-way and do-not-enter sign placement across from Bel Air High School. A single light and a reconfiguration of mall and mall annex access via the Gateway Drive intersection could be what's in order. After all, it already is possible to get access to both the mall parking lot and the mall annex lot via the Gateway Drive intersection.

Should the town simply end up putting a traffic light at Gateway and Boulton while leaving the light at the mall-mall annex intersection, the problem is likely to end up being shifted from one intersection to another. This is a heavily-traveled area and deserves a comprehensive solution, not a stopgap.