IF you're one of the nearly 10,000 commuters who travel Falls Road where it intersects with Joppa and Greenspring Valley roads, you're now a statistic in what could be a battle over the very soul of the tres chic crossroads.
There, at the gateway to the Green Spring Valley, two groups of engineers stood at morning and evening rush hours on May 14 counting vehicles as they went through traffic signals stationed at each of the overloaded intersections.
One group was sent by Baltimore County's Bureau of Traffic Engineering and Transportation Planning, while the other was retained by a group of private citizens eager to assemble their own traffic count.
At stake is a grade -- "A" through "F" -- that will determine whether the intersections pass or fail traffic standards. An intersection is given a failed grade when it is so congested that it takes several light changes for a vehicle to move through it.
Any proposed development for the Green Spring Valley area, which is blessed with location, location, location, likely will be affected by those marks.
Sources from each group told your wheelster last week that the early returns show a discrepancy in the intersections' grades. Darrell Wiles, chief county traffic engineer, said the Falls-Joppa intersection has received a "D", while the Falls-Greenspring Valley crossroad was given a "C." Those grades were based on a traffic count made in January -- and Wiles acknowledged that the mid-May count showed that hundreds more vehicles travel daily through each intersection than in January.
Enter the community activists.
Their private traffic engineer, Richard Moore, said they are prepared to grade both intersections "F" based on their count. That grade, under a new county law, should be enough to delay proposed expansion of office buildings that would nearly double the size of the Green Spring Station office and retail complex and attract about 4,000 more commuters to Falls and Joppa roads.
But hold the car phone.
Wiles told Intrepid last week that the county believes the situation could be skewed based on construction on Interstate 695 that has caused some commuters to head for the back roads to avoid Beltway gridlock.
"We can't tell whether this is a progressive problem or if it's just something in a variation in the days," Wiles said. "That is why we plan to return and count again in the fall."
Such theories don't sit well with nearby residents or some county politicians.
"They're indulging in the big if," said County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican. "I suppose it's human nature, but it's not very scientific. There's no doubt about the fact that intersection is failing."
Either way, expect an old-fashioned dawg fight over this one. Possible state and county efforts to widen parts of the roads to accommodate increased traffic could be blocked by preservation easements on Greenspring Valley Road.
Next stop could be the county's Board of Appeals, where development plans and the traffic woes could get a public airing.
As one neighbor told Intrepid last week: "Three years from now, expect to wait one half-hour longer because of those intersections. Imagine adding that to your daily commute."
Fuel prices pumped higher
SHORTCUTS: If you think the cost of fuel has been higher over the Memorial Day weekend, you're right. Prices for regular self-serve, unleaded gasoline rose nearly 2 cents in May over April's pump costs, a survey by AAA's mid-Atlantic region showed, averaging $1.089 per gallon. But May's price was 12-cents-a-gallon lower than a year ago. The Owings Mills Metro Subway station will be the site of the Maryland In-line Skate and Skateboard Festival on Saturday. Beginning at 11 a.m., experts on skate wheels will participate in competitions and demonstrations sponsored by the Mass Transit Administration. Potholes don't only trouble the front-end suspensions of the average Joe's car: Baltimore County Councilman McIntire was sidelined by a Greenspring Avenue crater Friday morning while traveling to Towson for a budget meeting. A trusty aide was dispatched to rescue the councilman while the council waited for him to arrive. As for McIntire's county-owned vehicle, taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a new rim.
Pub Date: 5/25/98