About 50 people, many who expressed their concern with worsening traffic conditions in their community, attended a meeting of the Fallston Community Council Tuesday evening to hear from representatives of the State Highway Administration about measures being taken to alleviate some of those concerns.
Though much of the material presented focused on conditions at the major intersection of Route 152 (Mountain Road) and Route 1 (Belair Road), several members of the audience vented their frustrations with the traffic congestion that has grown over the years and with speeders on residential roads.
Richard Johnson, who owns Ladd's Landing Farm off of Reckord Road, took issue with drivers speeding and throwing trash on smaller roads such as Reckord.
He recalled being able to ride a horse along Reckord Road and said that no one living in Harford County 20 years ago could have envisioned what would happen with development.
"And that's the thing, that's what's changing in Harford County," he said. "You wouldn't dare ride a horse on Reckord Road."
More development is coming, too.
Developers are seeking county approval for new housing and business developments, such as an apartment complex on part of the historic Mt. Soma Farm at Old Joppa Road and Belair Road, about two miles northeast of the Route 152/Route 1 intersection, and a mixed commercial and retail establishment, Bellgate Center, at Old Joppa and Belair roads, across the highway from the apartment complex. Also being reviewed by Harford County are plans for two residential developments along Route 147 [Harford Road] between Connolly Road and Route 152.
Dave Williams, chairman of the community council, said he and other Fallston leaders sent a letter in late 2012, detailing the community's concerns with the Route 1 and 152 intersection to any local and state officials who could support them.
State Highway Administrator Miranda Peters responded and told local leaders that her staff would look into the matter, Williams said. SHA is responsible for the three major arterial roads in the area.
Left turn issues
During Tuesday's meeting, John Vananzo, transportation engineer and team leader with the SHA's District 4, which serves Baltimore and Harford counties, and Matt Allen, an agency consultant with Wallace Montgomery, of Towson, presented the results of operational and safety analyses of the intersection conducted in January.
Allen said crash data from 2009, 2010, 2011 and the first nine months of 2012 was also reviewed. He said there have been 33 crashes at the intersection during that period.
"The predominant accident types were left-turn related accidents, people making a left turn accepting an inappropriate gap, misjudging it and getting hit by a through movement," Allen told the audience.
He said the intersection is at a safe service level, although the developers of the Fallston Walmart just north of the intersection off Route 1, and the Aumar Village Shopping Center, built at the intersection, had to make improvements to the intersection to ensure it did not reach a failing service level with the anticipated increase in commercial traffic.
Vananzo praised Harford County regulations, by which developers are required to improve surrounding roads and intersections to mitigate the traffic impact of their projects to SHA standards.
Allen said traffic engineers assign "letter grades" of A through F to intersections; those at the E and F levels are considered failing, and SHA officials require upgrades such as lane and signal improvements to be made.
He said the intersection of Route 152 and Route 1 is at level D, meaning it is not in need of any major changes, although level D is the lowest considered acceptable.
Allen said SHA staff observed "some strange habits" of motorists at the intersection. He said some drivers were observed doing everything they could to avoid making a left turn.
He said motorists who want to avoid waiting in a long "queue" of vehicles to make a left turn will often go through the intersection and make U-turns and come back to turn right, and they will typically cut through the parking lots of businesses around the intersection.
SHA engineers recommended extending the "curbing" farther out from the intersections to prevent U-turns.
Allen said curbing has been extended from the south side, and "from all indications that's helped a lot."
Bigger picture view urged
Audience members encouraged Allen and Vananzo to look at traffic issues affecting the greater Fallston area, not just one intersection.
Williams, who is also a member of the Fallston Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company, analyzed crash data for an area beyond the Route 152/Route 1 intersection.
He said fire and EMS personnel responded to 40 calls for motor vehicle collisions along Route 152, Route 1 and Route 147 between Jan. 1 and Tuesday.
"I'm more concerned about the [Route] 152-Route 1 corridor, than just the intersection," he said.
Vananzo described local residents as a valuable resource for his agency in providing information on traffic issues.
"We do know that the county's growing and we are doing what we can to try and improve safety," he said.
Amanda Roberts, a resident of Winchester Way, not from Route 152 in the old Fallston area, took some of the audience members to task for harshly questioning the SHA representatives.
She noted that the state engineers can't stop people from driving "like jerks" and causing an accident at 3 a.m.
"Until we increase the police force, until we stop development, in some aspect, none of these traffic conditions are going to be solved," Roberts said.