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Towson High student boosts traffic calming effort near school

Towson High student drives traffic calming effort on Aigburth

At least four traffic-calming speed humps will be installed on Aigburth Road in Towson this spring, in large part due to the effort of one Towson High School sophomore, who gave the project a much-needed push forward out of a sense of civic duty, according to Baltimore County Councilman David Marks.

Even though Kat Georgantas, 16, of Rodgers Forge, doesn't have her driver's license yet, she recognized that the cars speeding along Aigburth Road in front of her school are a problem. She walks to Towson High, as do many of her classmates, and the speed of traffic moving along Aigburth, which runs past a rear parking lot and entrance to the school, struck her as dangerous, she said.

During the previous school year, Georgantas and classmates in her American government course analyzed and developed a solution for the problem as part of a class project. Even though the project involved the entire class, Georgantas said she took on a leadership role.

"Everybody agrees that there's a speeding problem here on Aigburth, so we just wanted to make it safer for our peers," Georgantas said.

Last spring, she and her classmates presented their idea to a group of public officials as part of the class, who in turn gave the students feedback on their projects. One official, state Sen. Jim Brochin's chief of staff, Marc Lazerow, was particularly impressed by the proposal and Georgantas.

"I just remember her being very articulate, well-spoken and passionate about the issue," Lazerow said.

He connected Georgantas with Marks, who represents Towson. She then connected with members of the community who had also been seeking a way to slow traffic along Aigburth Road.

The Aigburth Manor Association of Towson, Inc., the community group governing the neighborhood that surrounds the school, had already asked the county for traffic calming along the route, according to vice president Paul Hartman, meaning that some of the groundwork for the effort, such as a county traffic study, had already been completed.

The study found that traffic volumes and speed along Aigburth were high enough to qualify for the county's traffic calming program, Baltimore County public works spokeswoman Lauren Watley said in an email, adding that officials recommended installing five speed humps spaced every 500 to 600 feet along the road to address the problem.

Speed humps are 22 feet long, with a 10 foot plateau in the middle and are designed to be driven over comfortably at 22 miles per hour, Watley said.

The county's studies of speed hump usage show that motorists traveling above 45 mph are eliminated on roads with humps, while motorists traveling above 35 mph are reduced by 75 percent, Watley said.

Traffic on Aigburth, which has a speed limit of 25 miles per hour, has increased tremendously over the past three decades, according to Hartman. The humps will help slow drivers to a reasonable speed, he said, and improve pedestrian safety for students from Towson High School and Towson University, as well as residents of the community in general.

Though officials have developed a solution for traffic calming in the area, its approval requires that 75 percent of homeowners surrounding a traffic calming project sign a petition approving the measure before work can begin. Hartman said his association failed to get the required signatures.

Georgantas picked up the cause and started collecting signatures at the start of this school year. She, classmates and community members, including Aigburth Road resident Michael Gallagher, volunteered their time and have recently finished collecting the required number of signatures. Georgantas also helped collect signatures from the homeowners who live directly in front of the locations of the proposed speed humps, which is also required by the county.

The association and Georgantas obtained signatures from homeowners who live where four of the five speed humps would be built. They did not secure a signature needed for the fifth, however. Watley said public works officials are looking for an alternate location for the fifth speed hump.

Hartman submitted the signatures to county officials, on behalf of the community association, Feb. 9. The association is the entity that is formally requesting traffic calming, Hartman said.

The project will cost $15,000, according to Watley. The humps should take two days to install, and the work will take place sometime in the early spring.

For her effort, Marks presented Georgantas with a resolution Monday morning thanking her for her work.

"I think it is an extraordinary effort by someone who took what she learned in a civics class and applied it to improving her community," Marks said. "This is what good citizens do — they find a problem and then they work to address it."

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