SHA to give Southwest Park and Ride in Catonsville $1 million makeover

Dozens of members of the Bent Twig Garden Club met at the Southwest Park and Ride just after 8 a.m.Thursday to board a charter bus to Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens inWashington, D.C.

The Catonsville-based club uses the lot, nestled between South Rolling Road and Interstate 195, as a starting point for its periodic jaunts to area gardens, several members said.

But the lot owned by the Maryland Transit Administration might have received a complete overhaul by the time the group uses the site as a rendezvous point.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is scheduled to begin a $1 million project in early June to improve safety and traffic flow for vehicles turning onto South Rolling Road, said administration spokesman David Buck.

Work by construction crews from CJ Miller, a contractor in Hampstead, will shift the South Rolling Road entrance north so that it runs adjacent to the current exit from the park-and-ride lot.

Crews will also resurface the ramp leading off I-195 toward Wilkens Avenue and the portion of South Rolling Road near the park-and-ride lot.

All resurfacing projects will take place outside of rush hour to reduce the impact it has on commuters, Buck said.

Once the project is completed in the fall, the SHA will install a traffic signal at the exit to alleviate the traffic backups during rush hour.

"What you're inevitably going to have is a bit more delay coming from Arbutus to Catonsville," Buck said on the effect of the signal on traffic coming north on South Rolling Road.

The signal will stop motorists before they reach the signal at Wilkens Avenue, freeing up space so multiple vehicles can exit the off ramp at once, Buck said.

Since the traffic signal is vehicle responsive, it will not delay traffic on South Rolling Road as much before and after rush hour, Buck said.

The traffic signal will also allow vehicles to make a safer left-hand turn onto South Rolling Road, Buck said.

Crofton resident Mike Wells said he typically uses the park-and-ride lot two or three times a month to carpool to work.

He said he rarely has a problem with the traffic because he comes and goes at off-peak hours, he said.

"That's the reason we use it," Wells said. "It's nice and convenient to use it."

Occasionally, drivers who tire of waiting in the backed-up exit line during rush hour use the convenience of the park-and-ride lot to drive around the other traffic.

Though Buck said the move was legal, the SHA project could, in effect, end that practice.

The project will eliminate 25 to 28 spaces at the northern portion of the lot and replace them with a green space, Buck said.

Making that portion of the lot undrivable will force drivers to take a more-circuitous route through the park-and-ride lot to the exit, something that may discourage the practice, Buck said.

He said the loss of those spaces wouldn't significantly impact commuters because the 453-space lot is rarely near capacity.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, for example, the lot had more than 100 spaces open.

Reid Hill, a Catonsville resident for 27 years, called the shortcut "infuriating" as he waited in the park-and-ride lot Thursday morning to pick up a friend for a trip to New Jersey.

Hill estimated he uses the lot about twice a month and said the backup wouldn't be as bad if drivers showed courtesy to each other.

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