Robinson makes suggestions for Billingsley Road
Ideas include traffic cameras, roundabout
Billingsley Road has been the subject of concern for the county over the last few years, with road improvements and safety concerns with speeding motorists at the forefront of the discussion.
During Tuesday’s Charles County Board of Commissioners meeting, Bill Shreve, director of Public Works for the coun- ty, talked about the installa- tion of a roundabout along the road at the intersection of Billingsley and Middle- town roads.
The county has made a recommendation to award a contract to begin the work and it should get started “by the end of this year,” he said. It is scheduled to be completed by the winter of 2018.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said it is en- couraging to hear chang- es are in progress, but there are tactics the coun- ty should consider to slow traffic in the meantime.
Robinson suggested another strategy that may be more innovative when working alongside a roundabout to control traf- fic. “They’re called smart traffic lights,” he said.
Robinson took a trip to Portugal, he said, to research the technology more. On Portuguese roadways, traffic lights are installed to detect the speed of cars. If a driver is traveling above the speed limit, the light turns red and drivers must stop. If they do not stop at the light, the motorist is cap- tured by photograph and fined accordingly.
The biggest issue on the road is speed, Robin- son said, and if everyone would go the proper speed limit, accidents would be “dramatically” reduced. The smart traffic light strategy can work, he said, if used correctly.
“If we can at least do something in the short term in two locations on Billingsley Road with maybe two traffic lights between that roundabout, we’re going to get people to slow down,” Robinson said. “That gives us time for physical improvements for the road.”
Sometimes to create change, a bit of creativity is needed, Robinson said. Road improvements are difficult to make — especially with different property owners along Billing- sley, he said. But traffic lights can be installed quickly, will be effective and potentially lucrative if drivers are still not slowing down.
The road is difficult to improve, he said, because some of the properties are right on top of the ex- isting road. Straightening it out is very difficult. “I’d like to see us get a little creative and do something that will slow traffic down,” Robinson said.
Shreve said there is state legislation that only allows speed cameras in school districts right now, but Robinson said he’d be happy to craft some legis- lation to send to the delegation.
“Let’s get the conver- sation going,” Robinson said.
County administrator Michael Mallinoff said the county can use preliminary information on the strategy, but this is a change in policy so it would need to go through the capital improvement program.
Having Capital Services work on the initiative while also creating a roundabout can cause problematic staffing issues, he said.
“The difficulty is that when the same people are designing one thing and they have to stop and design another, the issue of staff capacity comes up,” Mallinoff said.
However, Robinson said, the feasibility study is not yet complete on the roundabout so the county is not too deep into the process. He also said he would not mind seeing the project go into the capital improvement plan rather than becoming part of the roundabout initiative.
“If we can do this, this should be in CIP. Traf- fic lights are not cheap,” Robinson said.
It also needs to be determined if the county can have traffic cameras out- side of school zones, he noted. But that may have to be taken to the state level to determine.
In the meantime, Shreve said, to alleviate some of the traffic and curtail some speeders, the county has realigned some of the road, cut down many of the trees along the sides and done other things to improve safety. And the Charles County Sheriff’s Office has worked to try and slow people down, too.
Robinson said the roundabout should help as well. It will make the roadway less confusing for drivers, he said. Shreve said he likes the strategy of a roundabout going forward. Robinson agreed. “Again, very European,” he said.