10 full intersections

Relocated Route 24, which would for years thereafter be known as New 24, was planned to have 10 full intersections and an additional right in/right out entrance and exit at Tollgate Mall in Bel Air.

"The new road has the dual purpose of providing efficient access to the commercial district of Bel Air while at the same time moving large volumes of through traffic from north of Bel Air to I-95 and points between along the 6.3 mile length of road," according an Aegis article.

The State Highway Administration considered new Route 24 a limited access road, which meant there would be no driveways on the road, nor any commercial accesses.

Five of the intersections were to have traffic lights; the other six were to have stop signs or yield traffic controls.

At the time, C. Robert Olsen, who was the SHA district engineer for Harford and Baltimore counties, said the intersections without traffic lights would be monitored "with the possibility that some or all could eventually have red lights."

Intersections with traffic lights were at the Bel Air Bypass, Boulton Street, Business Route 1and Ring Factory Road near Bel Air, then it would be a wide open drive until the traffic light where Relocated Route 24 intersected with Tollgate Parkway and the old Route 24, near I-95.

The full light at Boulton Street, by Harford Mall, was a last-minute decision.

"We just realized that the point at which were are opening the road [just before Thanksgiving] is getting into the busiest time for the mall," Olsen said in one newspaper article. "We'd just be kidding ourselves if we didn't have the red light there at the time we open."

A quarter century later, the drive along Route 24 is not quite what was planned. The idea was that Route 24 would be a quick shot from I-95 to Bel Air without the interruption of traffic lights. Today, every intersection along that stretch has a full traffic signal, with arrows for turns and delayed greens.

Cox, who served in the House of Delegates from 1971 to 1991 and owns a real estate brokerage in Bel Air, said he would have rather had off and on ramps at the intersections. (Technically, one of those was eventually built, 24 years later, the interchange with Route 924 and Tollgate Parkway in Abingdon, at almost double the cost of building the highway itself.)

"It would have saved a lot of red lights," he said. "But that didn't happen, so had to live with what we have."

A whole new world

For the Ward family business, then run by the late Walter Ward and now by his son, Bob Ward, the entire Festival at Bel Air area "exploded after Route 24 opened, and it took Ward Properties from a purely residential company to a more commercial one," said Martin, who has been with Ward Properties for 20 years.

After selling the Festival property, the Wards developed the three other corners at Route 24 and Bel Air South Parkway – two commercially with Bob Evans, DuClaw and other stores and a professional building on the west side and Bertucci's, Jos. A. Bank and others on the east, and one residentially with Calvert's Walk Apartments.

"It made all those residential communities much more appealing to commuters, which in turn, for the Ward family, on the commercial side, provided a need for professional and service uses, which we were able to piggyback on," Martin said.

The 'old' Route 24

The Aegis called the existing Route 24, to be renumbered Route 924, "the road that nobody wants."

"The idea was to incorporate a portion of the old '24' into the name and still distinguish it from the new road," Olsen, the SHA district engineer, explained.

But there was also the question of who would maintain the road. SHA officials asked the county if the local government would take over the part that ran parallel to the new road.