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As committee explores ways to revitalize Loch Raven, it nixes idea for second Towson traffic circle in favor of changed signal cycle

The intersection of Joppa Road and Loch Raven Boulevard, where a possible traffic circle was studied and rejected in favor of changes to the traffic signal cycles.
The intersection of Joppa Road and Loch Raven Boulevard, where a possible traffic circle was studied and rejected in favor of changes to the traffic signal cycles.(Cody Boteler/Cody Boteler)

A task force convened to explore business development in Loch Raven has rejected a possible traffic circle at Loch Raven Boulevard and Joppa Road and voted to support changing traffic signal cycles to ease congestion at the busy intersection.

Floating the idea of a roundabout, County Councilman David Marks, who convened the task force, asked the State Highway Administration late last year to study the intersection and return to the committee options for improving its “E” level of service rating.

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The rating indicates the heavy traffic buildup that occurs there during peak hours, with delays lasting 71.5 seconds in the morning and 57.2 seconds during rush hour in the evening, a State Highway traffic engineer wrote in an April email.

Changing the signal lengths, which state engineers said can be done in just 60 days, is the most affordable option and presents the least impact to surrounding businesses, Marks said.

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“If the state were to either add lanes or build a roundabout, there would be negligible benefits,” he said.

Reconfiguring the signal cycle lengths will “slightly improve traffic flow” and reduce delay during the morning peak hours by 5 seconds for a 71.5-second delay. During the evening peak time, traffic delay would be reduced by 2.8 seconds, according to a traffic engineer.

Changing the traffic signal cycle “at the moment, is the easiest, most viable, and least costly solution,” said Jordan Levine, chair of the Better Loch Raven group that studied the intersection.

According to state traffic engineers, while installing the three-lane roundabout would have improved the intersection’s level of service rating during the morning peak hours, the intersection still would have operated at a failing level of service in the evening. A roundabout also would have impacted businesses at all corners of the intersections.

“Honestly, there’s not enough land there to do it,” said Levine, who owns the property on which the popular Total Wine & More store is located.

And, Marks added, “the state does not have $20 million to invest in a traffic circle.”

A third option, to build a third through lane along eastbound Joppa Road and add a right-turn lane along westbound Joppa Road, at an estimated cost of $8 million, would have improved the intersection’s level of service rating to a “D” by reducing traffic delay at peak hours to 46 seconds, but raised concerns about right-of-way impacts and infringement on the land of nearby businesses.

Improving the intersection is one piece of Marks’ overall effort to revitalize Loch Raven, an area he said “desperately needs redevelopment.”

Better Loch Raven is also in conversation with companies, both local and national, to bring into the Loch Raven Commercial Revitalization District, and is actively seeking more developers to build in the area, Levine said.

Group members will “be very much focused on how to improve not only the intersection, but the immediate roads and access and general walkability of the area," Levine said.

Loch Raven residents “would love to be able to walk and utilize the shops, if there were things we could utilize in the area, and if we could decrease the crime," Levine said.

Better Loch Raven is composed of roughly a dozen business and property owners surrounding the intersection as well as representatives of local community associations bounded by Danyway Road to Oakleigh Road to the west and east, and the Beltway and Joan Avenue from the north to south, mostly within the parameters of the revitalization district.

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The group is also looking at zoning designations in the area and working to prop up a Loch Raven business association to go after county grants that could be used to “beautify” the area through streetscape improvements, added welcome signs or community events like arts festivals, Marks said.

Marks also has made a request through the county’s Comprehensive Zoning Map Process to increase the zoning density of the Loch Raven area to make it more attractive to developers, he said.

The county-designated revitalization district offers tax credits and benefits to developers to encourage more investment within the district, which Marks said is “a perfect example of a post-World War II development that is showing age.”

Businesses within the revitalization districts are eligible for certain tax credits if their investments increase the assessed value of a property by $100,000 or more. They can also get 10 billable hours of architectural work for free as well as interest-free loans to use for exterior building improvements.

Marks said that he wants to see more properties redeveloped with “improved landscaping and sidewalk connections.”

“The fact that we’re not getting a tree-lined traffic circle doesn’t mean you’re not going to see more trees and other improvements in that area,” he said.

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