The traffic light being installed at Connolly and Harford roads in Fallston – or Benson if you prefer more traditional county geography – is a reminder of the years of poor planning by Harford County, exacerbated by poor coordination between the county and the State Highway Administration, in this small slice of suburbanization.
Once it becomes operational this fall, the light is expected to help better manage the flow of the 14,000 vehicles that travel on Harford Road between Route 1 and Route 152 daily, a State Highway Administration spokesperson says.
On weekdays, the bulk of the traffic volume occurs between 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. southbound as commuters head off to work outside the county and between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. when they return home.
Anyone who has driven north during those morning rush hour times can testify that the traffic going in the other direction backs up pretty far when it stops behind the light at Route 152. It remains to be seen if the new light will spread things out a bit, but we're skeptical.
The growth of the Jones Junction business along both sides of Harford Road north of Connolly should have been a warning that the two-lane Harford Road isn't adequate to handle the traffic volume, but there's nowhere left to widen the road in that area without some costly property taking.
The county made the situation worse by approving the 70-unit Hamilton Reserve development south of Connolly, where model houses are finally under construction, and the SHA people stood by and let it happen with nary a discouraging word. Many existing residents of the area warned the development, with only one way in and out onto Harford Road, would create a traffic nightmare, and it's soon to become a reality.
Then, there's the issue with the short hill on Harford Road rising steeply from the Route 1 junction to the Connolly intersection. It's not hard to imagine what it will be like in icy conditions when southbound traffic has to stop a the new light.
SHA says it will coordinate the new light with those at Route 1 and Route 152 so traffic moves smoothly. It can be done — the lights along Boulton Street between Tollgate Road and Route 24 have worked out pretty well since the last one was installed at Gateway Drive.
Still, we wonder what true benefit the new light at Connolly and Harford will have, other than to those who use Connolly in the morning as a shortcut from Route 152 to get to the Bel Air area. They'll undoubtedly love it, so much, we suspect, that there will eventually be a push for a light at Connolly and Route 152.
There clearly are too many two-lane roads in Harford County that handle increasingly high traffic volumes, such as Harford and Mountain roads and Route 22. More traffic lights won't solve the congestion problem, more travel lanes and better planning and tougher rules on development traffic impacts will.