Robin­son makes sug­ges­tions for Billings­ley Road

Ideas in­clude traf­fic cam­eras, round­about

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

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.

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