Road crews are three weeks away from finishing a $1.4 million project to make four Ritchie Highway intersections in Brooklyn Park safer.
The work is the first part of a three-phase effort to improve intersection safety at 11th and 16th avenues, Church Street and Hammonds Lane. The intersections have had above-average rates of traffic accidents because of poor road design and heavy use, State Highway Administration officials said. Most of the accidents were fender-benders or side-swipes caused by the lack of exclusive left-turn lanes.
An SHA study found Ritchie Highway at Church Street had 86 accidents from 1990 to 1992, the most in the area. The 11th Avenue intersection had 19 accidents and the 16th Avenue intersection 14 accidents in 1992, state figures show.
The state-funded project added protected lanes at intersections so cars can leave the stream of traffic when turning.
Last week, workers put up trees along a widened median strip. Yesterday, they were expected to begin milling and paving work, said State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Democrat representing Brooklyn Park.
Mr. Jimeno said the left-turn signals northbound and southbound at all four intersections will be turned on at the completion of the project.
"I think it's going to be a major improvement," said Mr. Jimeno, noting that the half-mile stretch has not been upgraded in about two decades. He said the other two parts of the Ritchie Highway project -- from Interstate 695 to the Baltimore line and from Hammonds Lane into Glen Burnie -- will begin once state money is earmarked.
Though some merchants along Ritchie Highway said the road project hurt their business, most said it was more of inconvenience than anything else.
"What can you do? These things have to be done," said Vanessa Mabrousas, who works in the family restaurant, Terry's Place. "I hope it helps to prevent accidents from happening because you can always replace a car but you can't replace a life."
David Greenberg, owner of Greenberg Jewelers, said the project had not hurt his business and was a boon to the community.
Other merchants in the Ritchie Highway Shopping Center said they thought the project was a good addition to renovations done at the center last year.
But Robert Clark Jr., owner of a Citgo gas station, said that the project that began last spring "is killing me big time."
"I lost about 20 percent of my business from that road," Mr. Clark said.