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Towsontown Blvd widening plan stirs controversy

widening-plan

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks said today he is frustrated by a road-construction project in Towson that was initiated without consultation of residents or his office.

The office of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz issued a news release yesterday saying they had completed a portion of a project to widen Towsontown Boulevard near Osler Drive, in between the Southland Hills neighborhood and Towson University. The project will add sidewalks, widen the road by 16 feet, and create two left-turn lanes onto Osler from west-bound Towsontown Boulevard; there is one left-turn lane now.

osler towsontown

“This roadway improvement helps provide for the significant growth that continues in Towson,” Kamenetz said in a statement.

“I’m sick and tired of my office and community associations being left in the dark on these projects.”

Marks said the road project had been discussed about five years ago, but he was told it was all but dead. He asked the Kamentez administration about it recently, he said, and was given no information. The plan that was just released appears to show that the widening will take place on the northern side of Towsontown Boulevard, on the Southland Hills side.

“It’s so frustrating for me and for the residents of the community to wake up and see that this is happening with no advance notice,” Marks said, adding that he’d heard from several concerned residents. “I’m sick and tired of my office and community associations being left in the dark on these projects.”

Paul Saleh, president of the Southland Hills Community Association, said the community had been talking to county and university officials for years about the potential expansion of the intersection. Residents wanted the roadway expanded on the south side of Towsontown Boulevard, not the north side that abuts their neighborhood.

The concerning trend of the residential neighborhoods in the Towson area playing second fiddle to development and expansion continues.

“We were promised a seat at the table when the expansion would be discussed and, more recently, were told that the expansion was ‘years away.’ Instead, we wake up this week to excavators and dump trucks in our backyards and a north-side expansion underway,” Saleh said. “The concerning trend of the residential neighborhoods in the Towson area playing second fiddle to development and expansion continues. One wonders why the county consistently sides with developers over its constituents.”

The county’s news release said that “the roadway improvements are a partnership between Baltimore County and Towson University, along with its neighboring medical institutions – Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Sheppard Pratt Health System and University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The County will contribute $1.7 million, which is 75% of the $2.3 million estimated cost, with the remaining cost to be shared between the university and the three hospitals.”

“I see no tree-protection fence that would be required. And I see no sediment controls,” said resident Roger Gookin. “I am concerned Towson University will continue to bury streams.”

This project has been discussed for years with the Towson 4 institutions and the community and is important to the university and hospitals and will ease traffic congestion for everyone.

Marks said he’s considering legislation that would require community input and council notification prior to such projects.

“This project has been discussed for years with the Towson 4 institutions and the community and is important to the university and hospitals and will ease traffic congestion for everyone,” Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County, said in an email. “There was a community meeting in one of the adjacent property owner’s homes with Councilman Marks and [the Department of Public Work’s] Traffic Engineering Division Chief.” She said she did not know how long ago the meeting occurred.

“The meeting occurred several years ago,” Marks said. “The bottom line is that there was no consensus plan, and no recent public meeting or notification that the project would be advancing.”

Kobler said that “the location of the expansion and placement of the new turn lanes [was] dictated by environmental and drainage constraints. Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability reviewed and approved the project plans.”

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4 Comments on "Towsontown Blvd widening plan stirs controversy"

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Taxpayer for progress

Unfortunately this is how things that must be done get done given the environment of obstructionism. Towson needs to update its post-World War II roadways. Citizens are unwilling to negotiate or accept that Towson needs modernization in certain areas. As a result the county has to use eminent domain. Marks has catered to the the anti-development movement in Towson for far too long. All you have to do is look at the crumbling northern and southern gateways along York Rd and stalled Towson Row project to see the David Marks legacy.

Our roadways need to be improved. It’s the environmentally sound and legal, though understandably not popular, way to do so..

Karl Pfrommer

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”, The Captain, “Cool Hand Luke” 1967. Our County’s misbehavior is indefensible. To claim in one breath that there was a road-widening meeting in a close-by neighbors house and failing to mention that the meeting was four years ago and an agreement was never proposed. And then in the next breath admitting that the County Environmental Protection Department was furtively consulted. The Department was never asked to consider a South Side widening, only the County’s North Side proposal. According to the County, this environmental approval justifies their decision not to consider other alternatives and not to consider the citizens of Baltimore County

Towson Resident

Thanks for reporting on this! An important story for the community. And thanks for digging below the surface, and checking government assertions as well.

Roger

Why would the administration push this off on the community and David Marks for not communicating administration plans? It’s shockingly different from the way our last administration cared and interacted collaboratively with residents.

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