Exactly three months after first hearing complaints from dozens of Eldersburg residents that their street was getting too dangerous too fast, Carroll County Planning Commission members endorsed yesterday a plan to slow traffic that includes Carroll's first traffic circle.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," several residents shouted amid applause as the commission accepted a "traffic calming" plan for about 3,000 feet of Monroe Avenue in Eldersburg.
"We thank all of you for recognizing the problem and for addressing the problem so quickly," said Dan Hughes, an organizer of Solutions for a Better South Carroll, a citizens group.
The problem, as identified at the Planning Commission meeting April 18, was the extension of Monroe Avenue south to Liberty Road (Route 26). The extension -- which eventually will stretch from Route 32 to south of Liberty Road -- long has been on the county master plan, but construction of the extension upset residents of Oklahoma Estates and nearby Heritage Heights.
Monroe Avenue, the residents said, has become crowded with driveways, parked cars and playing children. They fear that once the road becomes a viable route from Oklahoma Road to Liberty Road, the combination of children and speeding traffic could be disastrous.
To address their concerns, the county's planning staff drafted recommendations that include more stop signs, speed bumps, crosswalks and, where the current end of Monroe Avenue meets the new portion to the south, the county's first traffic circle. With the success of a traffic circle built in Lisbon, in western Howard County, in 1993, other area jurisdictions are considering such circles for traffic control.
The $18,000 Carroll circle, which would slow traffic by routing it around a center island, and the other traffic calming devices can be built as soon as the county commissioners give their approval. The commissioners have approved the project in principle and have appropriated money for it. Their formal approval of the Planning Commission's action is expected within a few weeks.
"We are intent on slowing the traffic down," said transportation -- planner Steve Horn, who devised the Monroe Avenue plan.
For nearly 30 years, the master plan has included an extension of Monroe south to Liberty Road and west to Route 32. Many residents bought their homes knowing that but hoping that the project never would come to their neighborhood.
When bulldozers arrived this spring, the neighborhood took action. Residents realized they couldn't stop the road extension, but they decided to at least make their portion of it a little safer.
"It's a good first step," Mr. Hughes said of the quick reaction to their concerns by the Planning Commission and the county commissioners.
Mr. Hughes said yesterday that his group is not finished complaining. Now that the residents apparently have succeeded in keeping Monroe Avenue safe for their children, they have set their sights on trying to do something about the explosion of commercial growth in Eldersburg.
Traffic congestion seems certain to worsen as more businesses are built along the heavily traveled stretch of Liberty Road from Monroe to Route 32, Mr. Hughes said.
Wal-Mart, Giant Food, Food Lion, a Carroll County Bank & Trust branch and Oklahoma Road Middle School are expected to be open in that corridor within 18 months. A 157-unit senior citizens complex is planned south of Liberty Road near Monroe Avenue, and the Home Depot chain might be interested in the neighborhood.
Several minutes before the commission accepted the Monroe Avenue traffic calming recommendations yesterday, it gave preliminary site plan approval to the Giant Food project.