Greg Bauer has been waiting a long time for resurfacing and other improvements on East Burke Avenue.
"The current road surface was done so long ago that most of the locals can't remember when it was done," said Bauer, president of the Burkleigh Square Community Association and a resident since 1976.
Now, residents along the road, which Bauer calls one of Towson's major east-west arteries, may finally see some significant work done in the coming months. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's proposed capital budget of $375 million for fiscal year 2016 includes $700,000 for resurfacing East Burke and replacement of curbs, gutters and sidewalks from Hillen to York Roads, roughly a half-mile stretch of East Burke.
The work is expected to start this summer and end in the fall, said Rahee Famili, chief of highway design for the county.
"The curbs and sidewalks are so old and broken up that they're basically useless," Famili said. "We've got to replace them."
Some houses along East Burke don't have sidewalks, "so we are going to close the gaps," Famili said. "By the time we're finished, it's going to be a continuous sidewalk."
One bonus of the project as planned is that three bumpouts would be installed at the side streets Normal Terrace, Maryland Avenue and Aigburth Road, not for traffic-calming purposes but to facilitate the laying of sidewalks and related grading without having to work on residents' properties, Famili said. As a result, traffic traffic would be slowed on East Burke, a major "collector" road, which serves to move traffic from local streets to arterial roads. If residents were to request bumpouts on a major collector road, the request would be denied, he said.
The capital budget and the proposed general operating budget of $1.9 billion, up 4.7 percent from the previous year, were both announced by Kamenetz on April 14.The budget plan does not call for any increase in property or income tax rates for county residents.
A County Council hearing on the budget is set for April 28 at 6 p.m., at the Historic Courthouse in Towson. The council is expected to approve a final budget plan May 21.
Bauer said the Burkleigh Community Association is "delighted" with the money for East Burke and that the most work that anyone can recall being done in recent years was an "80-20 job," in which a top layer was applied to the avenue and some side streets for an 80 percent improvement at 20 percent of the cost.
Bauer hopes for more than that this time around on East Burke and Normal Terrrace.
"What Burke Avenue and Normal Terrace need is a do-over — dig out the existing road surface, regrade and surface it properly to avoid major puddling at the intersections," he said. "The sidewalks and some curbs and gutters have been long overdue for improving the safety and general walkability on a major thoroughfare."
Famili said the county would mill and overlay East Burke, removing and replacing 2 to 3 inches of paving, which he said is the same as what Bauer wants.
Also generally pleased with the plans is Towson Manor resident Ed Kilcullen, past president of the Towson Manor Community Association.
"It's great news that East Burke Avenue will finally get the improvements that it desperately needs," Kilcullen said, stressing that he was speaking monly for himself as a resident. "This is a very busy and dangerous road with heavy pedestrian traffic. Cars travel at high rates of speed, ignoring crosswalks and making it perilous for Towson High students to cross."
Kilcullen added, "The lack of continuous sidewalks requires (Towson University) students and even elementary students walking to their bus stops to repeatedly cross the road or walk in the street. Although it's an arterial road and the county routinely rejects requests for traffic-calming, I hope that bumpouts, well-marked crosswalks and other strategies will be included in the project to improve safety for the many pedestrians who use this road."
County Councilman David Marks said he has been pushing for improvements to the road for several years.
"Not only have residents of Burkleigh Square and Towson Manor Village wanted these improvements, but they were a priority of the task force I created in 2013 to look at public safety near Towson University," Marks said. "We want better roads and stronger pedestrian connections throughout Towson."
Intersections also getting upgrades
The proposed capital budget includes $45 million for road repairs, of which $24.7 million is for streets and highways countywide, including $2.6 million for curbs, gutters and sidewalks, $1.5 million for street rehabilitation, $1.4 million for intersection improvements, $800,000 for traffic calming and $62,500 for alley reconstruction projects.
Famili said projects in the Towson area include $500,000 for design work for intersection improvements at Joppa and Harford roads, a jointly funded state project; streetscaping in the area of Chesapeake, Delaware and Shealy avenues, which is mostly done except for brick crosswalks that are expected to be installed this summer; and $20,000 for the extension of a left-turn bay at Joppa Road and Fairmount Avenue.
Marks said he hopes other roads in the Towson area – including Stevenson Lane and Yorkleigh Road, as well as Highland, Park and Woodbine Avenues in West Towson – will be resurfaced this year, too. He said he has asked that the three West Towson roads get top priority "since they have been delayed by several years."
Marks said there are also ongoing discussions with Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., about how pipeline work would affect the resurfacing of roads in Towson Manor Village.
He said he would also like to see roads in Stoneleigh, Anneslie and Idlewylde addressed, "but it may take ... the next few years."