Only signatures stand between Arbutus side street and slower traffic

When John Remmell moved to Birch Avenue 27 years ago, the small side street in Arbutus had a quiet, rural quality to it.

That is no longer true, as the street, a short distance from the sprawling University of Maryland, Baltimore County, campus, has turned into a thoroughfare.

"As UMBC has grown and the traffic cut throughs have changed, it's a far heavier (traffic) pattern than it used to be, even five or six years ago," Remmell said.

He said he sees vehicles on his street daily exceeding Baltimore County's 25 mph speed limit for residential roads.

The street, which is only 3,000 feet long according to the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, is near both Arbutus Elementary School on Sulphur Spring Road and Arbutus Middle School on Shelbourne Road.

Though the amount of traffic may not decrease in the coming weeks, the number of speeders should, as the county plans to install four speed humps on the winding road with double-sided parking.

The plan is contingent on the approval of 75 percent of the neighborhood near downtown Arbutus, including the residences that will have the speed humps outside their homes, said David Fidler, a Baltimore County Department of Public Works spokesman.

The $20,000 project was designed following a survey by the county's Traffic Engineering Bureau that showed the volume of cars and the speed they traveled met its requirements for the humps, Fidler said.

A road with a peak volume of more than 150 cars in an hour qualifies for traffic calming, if the average speed exceeds the posted speed limit by seven miles per hour.

Fidler said the peak volume of traffic on Birch Avenue reached 197 cars in a 60-minute span.

The average speed of the vehicles traveling down Birch Avenue was 32 miles per hour, just meeting the county's requirement for traffic calming.

Other traffic calming measures, such as adding islands or narrowing, won't be part of the construction, Fidler said, because the speed humps should solve the problem.

Val Stocksdale, a Birch Avenue resident for 25 years, said she doesn't care what measures the county takes, as long as the traffic that has bothered her for years is slowed.

Stocksdale joked that she had become so frustrated with motorists zooming down the road that she considered tossing balls into the street to see if cars could stop in time.

If they couldn't stop for a ball, they couldn't stop for a child, she reasoned.

Five or six years ago, Stocksdale said she signed a petition circulated through the neighborhood to have traffic calming installed the road.

But at the time, the street didn't meet the county's requirements for traffic volume and speed.

"I want to protect my grandchildren and the other children in the neighborhood," said Stocksdale, who has four grandchildren, ages 12, 9, 7 and 5. "They can't play out (front of the house) by themselves. Someone always has to be out there with them, because of the cars coming down the street."

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