SHA to start installation of traffic signal on Southwestern Boulevard in September

The Maryland State Highway Administration has announced plans to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Southwestern Boulevard and Linden Avenue.

Though the SHA did not have an exact construction schedule as of Aug. 2, the $102,000 project will start in September, said SHA spokeswoman Fran Ward.

The project, which is still in the design phase, will install a pole at the side of the road with a mast arm over the road holding the traffic signal.

Crews are expected to complete the project with minimal impact to commuters weeks before the signal becomes operational in the middle of October, Ward said.

When installing a new traffic signal, Ward said the SHA will set the signal to flash before it become fully operational, in order to prepare motorists for the change.

"Typically, before a signal goes into full red, yellow, green operation, you will see a signal go into flashing mode," Ward said. "That way, you get advance warning that a signal is going up."

Once the signal becomes operational, it will affect only drivers crossing the intersection at peak hours. The rest of the time it will flash yellow.

"The full signal phase operates only during the evening peak hours," Ward said.

The SHA performed a traffic study to determine that was the only time the traffic signal needed to be operational.

More than 15,000 vehicles travel on Southwestern Boulevard at Linden Avenue each day, according to the SHA.

Between 2009 and 2011, the intersection had seven police-reported crashes, but no fatalities, Ward said.

Southwestern Boulevard is a popular thoroughfare for commuters using the Halethorpe MARC train station, which sits about seven-tenths of a mile south of Southwestern Boulevard's intersection with Linden Avenue.

The Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department, which is located just north of the intersection, will be able to change the signal in order to respond to an emergency when the signal is active, Ward said.

Motorists going north on Southwestern Boulevard were also concerned about turning onto Linden Avenue, which leads into downtown Arbutus.

Del. James Malone, who represents District 12A, which includes Arbutus, approached the SHA about adding the traffic signal to Southwestern Boulevard about a year ago.

He said he had heard from area residents about the dangers of the intersection but also noticed them himself.

"We've noticed that the intersection there has gotten worse," Malone said. "I've been working very very hard trying to get a traffic light there."

Malone said the traffic in the area has increased as more people drive to the MARC train station, an increase that occurs especially when the price of gas is highest.

"Public safety being one of my number one priorities, the last thing I wanted to see was someone getting seriously injured or killed at that intersection," he said.

Malone said something that sounds as simple as installing a traffic signal requires patience.

"There's just so much involved when we do something like that. It's not as easy as people think it is," Malone said. "It takes 30 to 60 days to do the study, much less put it up."

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