Aberdeen’s long-awaited Middelton Road extension project is nearing completion, with the recent partial opening of the roundabout at Middelton and Beards Hill roads.
An extension of Middelton north from Route 22 to Beards Hill is under construction — work began in the spring — and it is connected to Beards Hill via the roundabout. The roundabout is open to through traffic on Beards Hill Road, meaning drivers traveling Beards Hill between Paradise Road and Route 22 can use it, but the Middelton Road section remains closed.
“It is accomplishing what it intended to do and it’s only one-half done,” Aberdeen City Manager Randy Robertson said during a City Council meeting Monday evening. “The other half [of the project] will be the road itself — Middelton extension.”
Middelton is still closed between the new Starbucks store at Route 22 and the roundabout, as workers must complete final touches such as paving, installing street lights, lane striping and landscaping, according to an announcement on the city’s website.
The announcement includes tips for navigating the roundabout, such as, motorists should slow down and look to their left before they enter, drive counterclockwise at a “low, steady speed” without stopping, plus remaining in one’s lane, yielding to traffic on the left and not passing.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3 at the roundabout, according to Robertson.
“The roundabout’s there, and it’s the new way of doing business in Aberdeen,” he said.
Safety concerns at Beards Hill and Paradise
Mayor Patrick McGrady, as well as some citizens, raised concerns about traffic safety at the nearby intersection of Beards Hill and Paradise Road.
“The No. 1 traffic complaint that I get is about Beards Hill and Paradise,” McGrady said.
He called the T-intersection, which does not have a traffic light, “a challenging intersection” with drivers speeding as they head north and south on Paradise, and other drivers having difficulty as they try to make a left- or right-hand turn from Beards Hill onto Paradise.
McGrady asked about what sort of “traffic calming” measures city officials could convince the State Highway Administration, which maintains Paradise Road, to complete. The mayor suggested narrowing Paradise in the area, either with permanent or temporary measures such as traffic cones, to encourage drivers to slow down.
“I bet that would resolve 80 percent of traffic issues,” he said.
Robertson, as well as Police Chief Henry Trabert, said no serious vehicle accidents have been reported at Beards Hill and Paradise, and the city manager noted the SHA often takes such crashes into account when determining if roads or intersections need safety improvements.
“I understand, everybody thinks and they feel that it’s a problem, but we’re not seeing that from the [data],” Robertson said.
The police chief said officers could conduct more speed monitoring and enforcement. He acknowledged that “it’s a tough intersection to navigate, especially when you come out Beards Hill Road.” Trabert said city leaders will also have to see how the Middleton Road extension affects traffic on Beards Hill once the extension project is complete.
Trabert said police are working with city and state officials on other problem intersections, such as where the access road to the Aberdeen Walmart meets Route 40. Robertson added that SHA officials said improvements there cannot be funded this year.
“I can deal with, ‘Not this year,’ but I just wanted to make sure that it’s on their priority list,” McGrady replied.
Ruth Ann Young, a former councilwoman, said she was “very thankful” for the discussion on safety at Paradise and Beards Hill roads.
“I am very amazed that there haven’t been horrible accidents there,” Young said. “I refuse to come out to Paradise Road and make a left-hand turn; I find a different way to get down Paradise.”
She said many drivers turning from Beards Hill to Paradise do not stop at the stop sign, but pull out “at least one car length too far” so they can see, but “they block the vision for everybody that wants to come out.”
“Common sense has to step in, and I think that it’s a project that needs much discussion so it can be resolved,” Young said.
Michael Hiob, a member of the city planning commission, said the opening of the Middleton roundabout could ease traffic congestion at Beards Hill and Paradise, with more drivers on Beards Hill heading south on Middleton to get to Route 22.
He also suggested building a roundabout at Paradise and Beards Hill, noting roundabouts have been successful on other state-maintained roads in Harford County, such as those along Route 7 approaching the new Bel Air Auto Auction facility in Riverside.
“A three-way roundabout will work wonders there” at Beards Hill and Paradise, Hiob said.