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Editorial: Rt. 22 expansion could well bring more of the traffic it seeks to relieve

Plenty of people are around who remember the traffic mess on the eastern side of Bel Air along Route 22 from Route 543 back to around Bynum Pond before the roadway was expanded from two lanes to four.

Then again, plenty of people have no recollection of that because the expansion of the roadway cleared the way for the development that resulted in the homes where those folks live today.

Today, traffic is bearable from the town limits to Route 543, and even a little beyond that. Then there's a bottleneck from Shucks Road to the double intersection where Routes 136 and 155 meet 22 at the Churchville Crossroads.

This isn't a new problem. A Churchville bypass was proposed more than two decades ago and would have resulted in a roadway starting around Route 155 at roughly Glenville Road and hooking back into Route 22 somewhere around Harford Community College. The plan was thwarted by a variety of factors, not the least of which was landowner opposition in the Churchville area.

Doing nothing hasn't helped the situation because, in truth, a lot actually has been done, namely a lot of houses have been built on Bel Air's eastern flank, and a lot of people who live in them get to work by driving east on Route 22. Still more of them attend classes at the increasingly attractive educational alternative of Harford Community College.

Last week, Harford County's planning director gave a briefing to the county council on the future of the busy Route 22 corridor and, not surprisingly, that briefing involves two steps. First, increase the roadway from two lanes to four or six. Second, build a Churchville bypass.

Both options have the potential to solve the problem, at least for a while. They also, however, make the area that much more attractive to even more development, which likely will result in the newly-expanded roadway becoming clogged again in relatively short order.

There are local examples of this. It's more a matter of months than years since the Route 24 intersection with Tollgate and Emmorton roads was rebuilt and expanded at the I-95 interchange, but Route 24 itself was a solution to the problem of heavy traffic on Emmorton Road as commuters headed from Bel Air to Baltimore. Emmorton Road, in those days, was Route 24. Now it's Route 924. Today's Route 24 (known to a generation as "New 24") was largely farmland, way back then.

This is not to say improvements to and expansions of Route 22 should be fought or avoided. Unintended consequences that can be predicted based on what's happened in the past do, however, need to be considered.

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