A ramp reconfiguration project along the inner loop of the Beltway at Harford Road is taking aim at reducing traffic accidents that the State Highway Administration says are mostly due to high- and low-speed traffic interacting in a weave lane.
"This is a project that people have probably seen similar-type projects around the Baltimore Beltway, around the Capital Beltway. [The Harford Road interchange] is an older-style cloverleaf interchange," said David Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration. "When you have a cloverleaf, you have the kind of issues we have … high-speed getting off the Beltway, low-speed traffic trying to get on. That’s not a good mix."
"You get a fair amount of side swipe or rear end accidents, because people are not sure … do I merge now, or what," Buck said.
State Highway Administration data, provided by the agency to Parkville Del. John Cluster, shows that from 2009-2011 there were 25 recorded crashes near the interchange and that 20 of those occurred in the weave section of the highway.
"These crashes consisted of significant numbers of rear-end and sideswipe type crashes. These types of crashes can often be attributed to congestion and to weaving," wrote SHA engineer Christina Minkler in an email.
The project, which has been funded through a $1 million design and engineering phase, is expected to total $5-6 million in additional construction costs, according to Buck. Construction isn't scheduled to begin until around Spring 2014, he said.
Although the project is nowhere near the beginning of construction, Buck was able to explain what might happen.
The State Highway Administration plans to remove the ramp from the Beltway onto northbound Harford Road and widen the ramp, which currently leads to southbound Harford Road, to three lanes.
"There will be a double-left turn lane and a free right turn lane at the top of the ramp, controlled by a traffic signal," Buck said.
Buck explained that the cloverleaf style interchange was popular among engineers in the 1950's and 60's, and that it was an excellent solution at the time when there was less traffic.
"There will be a significant improvement, we're going to completely eliminate the weave on the Beltway," Buck said. "It provides a tremendous safety benefit. The only way to really eliminate the problem is to do what we’re suggesting."
He compared the proposed solution for Harford Road to similar projects carried out at Liberty Road and Dulaney Valley Road—most similar, he said, would be the interchange at I-695 and Philadelphia Road.
So far the state agency has sought input from the Greater Parkville Community Council and the Carney Improvement Association, meeting with each group during Fall 2012.
"We plan to meet with both of them again next spring as we get further into the design phase," Buck said.
What do you think of the plan to reconfigure the ramps from the inner loop to Harford Road? Do you think the "weave area" is dangerous? Tell us in the comments.
Get local stories delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.