Traffic calming additions to busy Catonsville street

The summer effort is nearly completed to improve pedestrian safety on Edmondson Avenue between Rolling Road and Winters Lane.

Baltimore County Department of Public Works began adding bike lanes, sidewalks, bumpouts and a crosswalk to the street on Aug. 20 and the project is scheduled to finish by the end of September, according to Keith Link, designer of the project with the Department of Public Works.

The project's total cost is approximately $520,000 Link said on Sept 5.

First District Councilman Tom Quirk worked with the Department of Public Works to implement the project. He said pedestrian and bicycle safety along Edmondson was the biggest issue voiced by residents during community meetings held by the Oakcrest Community Association and Old Catonsville Neighborhood Association.

"I get tons of complaints about speeding on Edmondson Avenue, so I'm hoping this will improve safety, especially for children in the community," said Quirk, a former president of Oakcrest Community Association.

The project adds 5-foot wide sidewalks to the north side of Edmondson Avenue which runs continuously from Winters Lane to Rolling Road, Link said.

A combination of 9-foot wide bike lanes and parking spots will be added to both the north and south side of the road the same length as the sidewalks, Link said.

"It's definitely going to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety," Quirk said. "Another benefit is beautification — we're going to plant trees from Rolling Road to Winters Lane that will be spread out so it doesn't impede traffic."

Link said last week that he expects work on the north side of Edmondson to be completed by the end of this week, followed by work on the bumpouts and median.

He said there is a concern about where the tracks are for the trolley that once served the area and if they will impede the digging that allows room for the roots of the trees in the medians.

The trees, expected to be American Elm shade trees, will be planted in sections of the median.

They will be donated by the Catonsville Tree Canopy Project, a nonprofit organization that has a goal of planting 1,000 big trees in Catonsville by 2020, said Jim Himel, 62, a member of the organization and a board member of the Old Catonsville Neighborhood Association.

An additional crosswalk will be added to Beaumont Avenue for children crossing the street.

That has been a concern for many parents who live near the road, like Kristen McCarter, 47, who has worried about her son crossing the street to get to Catonsville Middle School.

She said she was relieved to hear there will be a new crosswalk added to Beaumont Avenue, in addition to one located at Rosewood Avenue. That should make it safer for children crossing the street, she said..

"Edmondson Avenue isn't a walkable street, so it's great to hear that they're adding sidewalks and dividers," McCarter said.

Himel said the Old Catonsville Neighborhood Association has been advocating for traffic calming on Edmondson for "at least a decade" to make the neighborhood safer for children.

"The number of kids in our community has quadrupled," Himel said. "We really need Edmondson Avenue to be safer for children."

Kirby Spencer, president of the association, was part of the focus group for the project.

"I think anything that is going to help slow down traffic and make it safer for pedestrians is a great thing," Spencer said.

Himel, a former planner for Baltimore City, said he was disappointed with the bike lanes, which aren't family-friendly because they are combined with parking space on the shoulder of the road.

"It's a good enough design for traffic calming," said Himel, a former planner for Baltimore City. "I think it's not a very good design for bike lanes though. What I would like to see is family-friendly, kid-safe bike lane. This bike lane is designed for adults."

Himel said he would have rather seen bike lanes similar to those found on New York City streets, where lanes are much wider and separated from parking spaces.

But Spencer said the design of the bike lanes should work for the suburban neighborhood.

"There are so few cars that actually park on Edmondson Avenue, most of the blocks are generally cleared of parked cars. In an urban environment, where many people park their cars it might be more of a concern," Spencer said.

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