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The Aegis
Harford County

Traffic concerns about apartment complex proposals well founded [Editorial]

The proposal to build a complex of 258 apartments on the southwestern end of Bel Air off Route 1 near the Old Joppa Road intersection comes as something of a surprise, as did the plan to build another apartment complex off of Route 24 in the Bel Air South area.

Prior to the 2008 real estate crash, it had been quite a while since a major apartment complex had been built in the greater Bel Air area. Clearly there is demand for apartments as there are plenty of fine complexes in and around the county seat, but it seems the most profitable form of residential development for a long time had been owner occupied homes, be they townhomes or single family units, or even condos.

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Since 2008, it's worth noting, the local construction business has been in a dismal slump, with relatively few new homes being built. There has been some new home construction in and around Bel Air in the past year or so, but nothing in terms of percentages or raw numbers compared to building booms of decades past.

It stands to reason that apartment construction would be part of a healthy residential construction rebound. People who may have qualified for home loans a few years back might have trouble securing financing these days, but they still need places to live. Construction of apartments can sometimes be an indication that residential development is on the mend.

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At both sites, there are concerns about the impact of the new apartment complexes on existing infrastructure. The Bel Air South area already is plagued by traffic problems. The problems have been eased somewhat by the multimillion dollar reconfiguration of the I-95 interchange with Route 24 and the surrounding road network. Still, the addition of anything new in the area is likely to have a noticeable effect on road conditions.

Over at Old Joppa Road and Route 1, the infrastructure isn't nearly as up to date, and the proposal to replace the flashing light at the intersection with a full stop light constitutes something of a stopgap in mitigating the effect of cars coming from a 258-unit apartment complex.

Already the southern end of Business Route 1 and the surrounding network going south to the Bel Air Bypass intersection is in need of some work, and the new construction is likely to accelerate the day when major work needs to be undertaken.

As it stands, both places where apartments are proposed are zoned for such high density residential construction, so there's a good chance they'll be built. Much less certain is whether the state and county governments will make the effort to keep up with demands on infrastructure.

As people already living in the area lift their voices to complain about the coming traffic problems, government officials would do well to take their concerns to heart and begin working now to deal with the inevitable jams.


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