Major changes needed on Route 22 at Harford Community College [Editorial]

The decision last week by Harford Community College to spend $162,420 for a right turn lane for traffic going from Schucks Road to Route 22 didn't involve a lot of money in the realm of traffic construction projects.

All the same, probably every cent of what's to be spent on the turn lane will be wasted because the addition of a turn lane – or any other piecemeal roadway change – in the vicinity of Harford Community College is likely to have no positive effect and end up being ripped up and replaced when meaningful change comes about.

Route 22 from Bel Air east to Aberdeen Proving Ground is a congested stretch of state roadway, and the area around the college at Campus Hills is a major pinch point. In recent years, as the college has expanded and its enrollment grown, some roadway improvements have been made, to include the addition of lanes, upgrades of entrance and exit points and fine tuning of traffic lights.

Traffic problems at the college, meanwhile, have gotten progressively worse.

One problem is that Aberdeen Proving Ground has long been a major employer for people who live in the greater Bel Air area, and Route 22 is the most direct link between Bel Air and the post. Going back 20 or more years, widening projects along Route 22 have improved the situation, but only where the roadway has been expanded from two lanes to four lanes, plus turning lanes at busy locations.

Such was the case when the Aberdeen Thruway was built on the eastern end of the roadway; similarly, traffic conditions improved when the road was increased to four main lanes from Bel Air east to Fountain Green Road. A major reconfiguration of the Route 22 intersection with Routes 136 and 155 in Churchville similarly involved a widening to three lanes, but only for a short distance.

Given that the college can be expected to continue attracting more students – especially with its Towson University partnership building opening in 2014 – and Aberdeen Proving Ground is likely to continue being a major employer for people living in Bel Air, the time is fast approaching when a major upgrade of Route 22 for a mile or so on either side of the college needs to be given serious consideration.

The congestion around the college is more than just inconvenient; it is potentially dangerous given the relative inexperience of many college-age drivers, combined with the difficulty of making left turns in the area.

The time to start working on such a project is now, not after more piecemeal construction or a series of serious accidents or one particularly horrific one.

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