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Baltimore County Now

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Date: May 9, 2014

photo of vehicles in trafficKris Nebre
Engineer I, Bureau of Traffic Engineering & Transportation Planning,
Department of Public Works   

As traffic engineers in the County’s Department of Public Works, we know that in Baltimore County, like most places, many of us are trying to get to the same places – usually at around the same time of day. Ironically, it is in this so called “rush hour” that traffic slows down, and travel time delays are significantly increased. Amongst the signalized intersections throughout Baltimore County, there are certain ones which back up routinely, and at times drivers avoid them by cutting through residential neighborhoods or taking a completely different route to the destination.

Unfortunately as a result of population and development growth, traffic typically becomes more congested as years go by. Because of this, our traffic engineers need to regularly monitor and rate all signalized intersections in the County. Traffic counts and observations of queuing are taken into consideration for the evaluation. From the data, we would determine if any improvements to the intersection are necessary. Changes could include re-timing the signal, designating new lanes, or geometric changes such as adding islands or changing approaches so that traffic flows better.

Every year, Public Works traffic engineers rate intersections across the County from “A” to “F” –excellent to failing. These ratings are based on how well the traffic signal can provide service during rush hours. The intersections rated “A,”  “B” or “C” are considered acceptable and are studied in rotation every three to four years. The “D” rating is considered a warning sign, and those rated “E” or “F are considered failing. The “D” “E” and “F” intersections are reviewed annually.

We report those marginal or failing intersections (“D” “E” and “F”) to the County’s Planning Board each January and then to the County Council. This ensures that everyone has an understanding of driving conditions on County roads. A failing intersection (“E” or “F”) may indicate slow or stalled traffic during rush hours and may explain why drivers are diverting to secondary streets. Failing grades may also mean that current conditions cannot support the construction of more new homes or shopping centers. When an intersection does not make the grade one year, it is re-examined the following year until an improvement can be engineered and implemented.

This “alphabet” rating system is a performance measure used by traffic engineers to assist in determining problematic areas and in keeping traffic moving in Baltimore County. Ultimately we build a categorical picture of the County’s intersections – one that allows us to spot problems, fix them and plan for the future.  We hope that by monitoring and rating these intersections, we can help you get where you are going as efficiently as possible for years to come.


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