A citizen’s guide: ‘Traffic calming’ demands patience, persistence

The February BHCA meeting included a brief overview of the traffic situation in Bolton Hill. You can see slides from the presentation here

  • Residents on and near West Lafayette Avenue between Eutaw Place and Mt. Royal Avenue are circulating a petition to ask the city to “do something!” about speeding traffic and stop-sign scofflaws.
  • Folks who live on John Street are celebrating their successful four-year campaign to stop trucks and commuters from cutting through off Howard Street and zipping over to Mt. Royal and, eventually, I-83.
  • Neighbors were pleasantly surprised last fall when a long-awaited repaving of McMechen Street between Mt. Royal and Eutaw included speed bumps in the school zone to slow cars and protect pedestrians.

We’ve all experienced cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets. This is part of a larger problem. The city’s streets were originally designed  to slowly funnel traffic to larger streets with a 30mph speed limit (35mph on divided major arteries). In turn, major arteries such as MLK Boulevard and North Avenue were meant to funnel traffic to highways such as I-83.

But MLK doesn’t funnel traffic to I-83.  The designers perversely left it to spill traffic onto Howard Street (with no direct access to I-83) as well as to Cathedral, Biddle and eventually to N. Calvert and North Avenue. (See the green streets in slide 1.)

Bolton Hill is surrounded by juicy commuter destinations: the State Center, everything south on MLK (UMMedical), and even MICA. We can’t change that reality. What we can do is attempt to slow traffic on streets that are meant to be slow and hold traffic on other streets to the speed limit by persuading the City to install traffic calming devices. (Slide 3 shows current hot spots.)

Neighbors have come together to discuss traffic calming options. It is important to focus on solutions that DOT might approve. It takes a long time, but eventually DOT gets there. The point of traffic calming is to install physical structures that cars simply cannot speed around or over. (Slide 4 shows such options, including colorfully painted bump outs at N. Calvert and 26th streets and a DOT suggestion for the huge spread of pavement at the intersection of Park and Laurens.)

Note that Bolton Hill already has a few traffic calming installations:

Curb bump outs on Mt Royal protect pedestrians by making the crosswalks shorter and slowing traffic turning right.






Newly constructed speed humps on McMechen. A few drivers swerve around the ends, but that will stop when cars are again parked along both sides of the street.











BHCA has established a process for moving forward. (Slide 5 shows the 4-year process it took for lower John Street to keep out large trucks: flexposts were installed on Feb. 10.) 












Amy Sheridan, BHCA traffic coordinator, will be happy to speak with a group about options. Reach her at traffic@boltonhillmd.org. However, it is up to residents of the block or area itself to shop their ideas to neighbors and achieve at least 70 percent agreement before BHCA will approach DOT. BHCA also plans to continue to connect with surrounding neighborhoods facing similar challenges.

– Amy Sheridan