Emmorton-area residents urged Harford County officials to consider new traffic solutions as two residential projects, at Constant Friendship and Plumtree Road, move through the county's development review process.
As the Evergreen Woods Apartments project, as well as Riverwoods at Tollgate mixed-use development, were reviewed by the Harford Development Advisory Committee Wednesday morning, several people warned of serious gridlock in the busy area of Route 24, Route 924 and Tollgate Road.
Committee members reviewed a preliminary plan for the 198-apartment Evergreen project, west of 24 and south of Plumtree.
They also reviewed a preliminary and site plan for Riverwoods, at the end of Arundel Court near Target and Walmart off of Constant Friendship Boulevard.
The development would feature 84 apartments with a clubhouse, a 72-unit senior citizen complex, a 58,000-square-foot storage facility and a 4,000-square-foot community center on 15.54 acres.
Bill Wehland and Jim Reyerson, both Emmorton residents, said the county should not close Plumtree Road, because it would exacerbate traffic on Tollgate and ultimately Route 24.
Evergreen's developer is set to connect Tollgate between Plumtree and Bel Air South Parkway, which would finally make Tollgate a throughway between Bel Air and Abingdon.
County and State Highway Administration officials have been working on a traffic analysis for the entire area, but Wehland wondered why DAC was considering the Evergreen project before the results of the study have been released.
"How can this project continue to go forward without a complete analysis of what is going to happen at [Route] 24?" Wehland asked the committee officials. "When are we going to plan what's going to happen here? We are going down this road of getting this approval and the most important thing is traffic."
DAC chairman Moe Davenport replied the projects would not get the committee's approval without the results of the study.
He said the committee will evaluate the results and propose mitigation based on what they suggest.
Rich Zeller, of State Highway Administration, said he expects the analysis to be done in a week or two.
Wehland said Jeff Stratmeyer, chief engineer for county highways, told him, "We are considering all options."
"You have got to consider the traffic that is going to be on Tollgate Road all the way down," Wehland said.
The county is also considering a future roundabout at Plumtree west of Route 24, but some residents suggested a two-way stop instead, letting Plumtree traffic flow east and west.
Reyerson said that idea would make sense.
Davenport and Rowan Glidden, with G.W. Stephens Jr., & Associates Inc. engineering firm, both said the main concern is traffic backing up onto Route 24 if too many cars try to drive west onto Plumtree.
Diana Copenhaver urged the county to consider the impact of new students on Emmorton Elementary School, although Davenport explained that has been taken into account by the school system's adequate public facilities board.
Copenhaver pointed out Emmorton has seven portable classrooms, but Davenport said: "Portables are not an indicator of capacity."
Copenhaver replied: "There are a lot of disadvantages to being in those portable classrooms... This is not a good sign for Emmorton Elementary School."
David Copenhaver, meanwhile, questioned the traffic considerations for the Riverwoods project, which he said would make driving around Constant Friendship even worse.
"Have you traveled down Constant Friendship at any time when there is peak traffic?" he asked. "That Constant Friendship corridor is jammed now."
With only one way in or out of the proposed development, he asked, "how can you not require any mitigation?"
Zeller noted Constant Friendship is not a state highway, but Davenport said the Constant Friendship Business Park made improvements at the time of its approval.
He said the lot can be developed in its current zoning category and pointed out the state spent millions rebuilding the interchange around Route 24 to help ease traffic near the I-95 ramps.
He also suggested revisiting the possibility of a ramp connecting Constant Friendship directly with I-95, which residents said came up when Constant Friendship was being built but never moved forward.
Copenhaver replied: "None of that impresses anyone if we still have to get from point A to point B and have the possibility of not having a safe journey."