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Traffic gridlock looming Experts studying Annapolis streets


The narrow downtown streets of Annapolis are so clogged with traffic that the main corridors into and around the historic city must be improved to avoid gridlock, a consultant has found.

In a preliminary report on traffic conditions in Maryland's capital, Kellerco, a consulting company from Fairfax, Va., has underscored the importance of three major thoroughfares -- Rowe Boulevard, Forest Drive and West Street.

The study is the second phase of a transportation master plan being developed by the city.

"Frankly, you can't get any more traffic through the downtown area," said C. Richard Keller, chief consultant and co-author of the 53-page draft report. "You have fairly saturated conditions. What you need is corridor movement."

Although the consultants have not made any specific recommendations, they did say the city and county must work together to prevent Forest Drive from being choked with traffic.

Traffic on Forest Drive, the main street on the southwestern side of Annapolis and a direct route to nearby freeways, has increased steadily in recent years, spurred by the area's real estate boom. As housing developments and shopping centers spread across the last open land, more cars and buses are

clogging the road.

Forest Drive now has the highest traffic volume in the city and has almost reached the rate projected for the year 2010.

"We do believe it should be looked at on an inter-governmental basis," Mr. Keller said. "There's more pedestrians and more buses in the Forest Drive corridor, and there needs to be some sort of conceptual plan to decide just what it should look like."

He noted in the report that Forest Drive is a prime candidate for a park-n-ride lot, already proposed for Rowe Boulevard to decrease downtown congestion.

Other traffic plans being considered in a separate study of the historic district include replacing metered parking at City Dock with a small garage and increasing use of the city's parking garages.

The consultants said they are still compiling data to make recommendations on Rowe Boulevard and West Street. They were hired to provide a comprehensive study of Annapolis traffic problems, with the main focus on areas outside downtown, said Lynise S. DeVance, a city transportation planner. Identifying trouble spots now will allow the city to forestall long-term traffic congestion on key routes such as Forest Drive, she said.

The study is the second step in developing a regional transportation master plan. Last year, the city and county financed a joint study on mass transportation. Findings from the study, which is just being completed, prompted County Executive Robert R. Neall to give the city some $70,000 this year to offset the cost of providing bus service to county residents.

The second phase in the master plan, which will replace one that dates back to 1979, involves compiling all recent traffic research and determining road improvements, said Eileen P. Fogarty, director of planning and zoning.

The consultants briefed a transportation committee on their preliminary findings Wednesday night. Alderman Dean Johnson, I-Ward 2, who attended the session, said he found some of the statistics on traffic levels startling. For example, traffic on the section of Rowe Boulevard between the State House and Taylor Avenue is expected almost to double in the next decade.

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