A freshman Baltimore County councilman shifted into reverse and backed away from his controversial plan to change traffic patterns near Towson State University last night.
Appearing before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 people in the County Council chambers, Councilman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, announced to loud cheers that he has abandoned the most controversial part of his plan.
That plan would have made Burke Avenue one-way east from York Road, forcing westbound traffic onto Hillen Road before reaching York. Mr. Riley said he will go forward, however, with two other proposed changes farther north in central Towson.
The major change, starting May 1, would block southbound traffic on York Road at the complex intersection with Joppa and Dulaney Valley roads and Allegheny Avenue.
This would force vehicles off York Road and encourage drivers to use bypass routes around Towson's retail core, with the goal of helping pedestrians and small businesses along York.
Representatives of several businesses took issue with that plan, however.
Gregory Arnold, an official representing the developers of Towson Commons, a huge new retail movie-office complex in central Towson, was one of the opponents. He said he worried that the changes would hurt the nearly completed project by keeping people away.
Representatives of small businesses in the block immediately south of the intersection are also worried that customers will not be able to conveniently reach them.
The other, smaller change would convert a short section of Joppa Road east of York Road into a two-way street to reduce the number of turns off the western Towson bypass, Bosley Avenue.
Mr. Riley's plan for Burke Avenue raised a furor among residents, who claimed that the changes would cause worse problems than any that now exist.
Susan Gray, a resident of Hillen Road near Burke Avenue, said she is "real happy" that Mr. Riley decided not to go ahead with his proposed six-month trial changing neighborhood traffic patterns near her home.
Beverly Battenfeld, a neighbor of Mrs. Gray, added, "I'm really happy he took the residents into consideration."
Mr. Riley, in announcing his reversal, said he and his daughters spent much of the weekend observing traffic at the Burke Avenue-Hillen Road intersection and talking to neighbors there.
"After almost getting one of them [the daughters] killed," Mr. Riley said, "we need to take a step back." He proposed a continuing public debate on traffic congestion around the intersection of Burke and York.