The county Planning and Zoning Commission painted a picture of the future of transportation in the South Carroll area at a meeting about the Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan on Wednesday.
George Cardwell, a senior consultant with Pennoni and Associates, which was contracted to help compose the transportation element of the Freedom Plan, told the commission that much of the concern with traffic in the Freedom area is focused on the area surrounding Md. 26 and Md. 32.
Cardwell provided the commission with an assessment of a recent study performed by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, along with recommendations for the county on transportation in the Freedom area.
While the roads currently operate with relatively minimal congestion, the BMC study, Cardwell said, showed several intersections will become strained as the region grows.
Pennoni, he said, studied what the roadways would look like if the area becomes totally developed. If that happens, Cardwell said, the area around Md. 26 and Md. 32 will become difficult to traverse during busy times, especially during evening rush hour, when most intersections in that stretch of roadway are projected to fall to a failing grade. While the traffic coming through the area will be high, it's the turns that cause the most problems, he said.
Because of right-of-way constraints on Md. 26, options are limited for widening the roadway, Cardwell said, though the best available option might be adding auxiliary lanes where possible or extending lanes. As with many state roads that are not highways, the road is also identified as a major bike route that requires bike lanes, he said.
"This essentially becomes a pseudo Main Street, and it's hard to find a Main Street that's six lanes wide," he said.
To address the issue, BMC recommended developing local roads, looking for opportunities for development connections and reviewing the allowance for parcel build-out as they are developed.
An analysis provided by Pennoni shows that travel demand in the area is currently increasing at a small rate, Cardwell said. Much of that travel, he noted, carries people outside of the county for work. Because of the distance many travel to get to work, the most common mode of transportation will remain automobiles for the foreseeable future, he said, adding that interconnectivity of local roads can help travelers.
While alternate transportation options such as walking, biking and public transit can help alleviate traffic by eliminating some short vehicle trips, it would not make a significant difference on congestion on the roadways, he said, although implementing a Complete Streets Policy, with lanes for pedestrian and bike travel, could help with safety.
Cardwell recommended that the county follow transportation priorities laid out in the area's 2001 master plan and look into identifying alternate sources of funding for roads projects, such as public-private partnerships. The county could also engage in a more detailed analysis of transportation and land use, he said.
Additionally, he said, officials should push the state on completing projects on Md. 32 and Md. 26 that are currently in early planning and study phases. Advancing construction of local roads where possible to create alternate routes for drivers would also take some of the pressure off the major roads, he said.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss transportation further at the commission's Oct. 18 meeting.
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