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Roundabout 'Gateway' Planned for UMBC

Circle at end of UMBC Boulevard spur from I-195 may help avoid crashes at campus loop road.

A new roundabout planned at is intended to improve the flow of traffic and pedestrians at the intersection of Hilltop Circle and UMBC Boulevard and serve as a landscaped gateway for the campus, according to officials.

The $13.2 million project will address long-standing problems at an intersection that has become more dangerous at the growing campus since UMBC Boulevard was connected with I-195 leading to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport more than two decades ago, according to Lynne Schaefer, the university's vice president for administration and finance.

"We've been asking for funding from the state to do this since 2001," Schaefer said.

About 20,000 vehicles a day visit the campus, thousands of which travel between UMBC and I-195, according to officials.

The route up I-195 through campus is also a popular shortcut by locals wishing to avoid traffic on the I-695 beltway.

"Quite a few people cut through UMBC, and that adds to the burden at that intersection," Schaefer said.

According to officials, there were 98 crashes at the intersection of Hilltop and UMBC Boulevard during the decade ending in January, 2010--a 50 percent increase over the previous decade.

"It's a dangerous intersection," Schaefer said. "People drive very quickly. There's an accident there once or twice a month."

Pedestrians are at risk as well, she said, since hundreds of vehicles are parked along UMBC Boulevard when school is in session.

The plan replaces a confusing set of lanes that direct traffic across each other with a broad circle that alters the flow of vehicles to the administration building, visitor parking garage and new fine arts building that will open this September.

Most of Administration Drive, which loops off Hilltop Circle and serves as a drop-off point near the Retriever Activity Center field house, will be closed and converted into a pedestrian mall, according to Schaefer.

Footpaths envisioned for a wide lansdcaped area next to the visitor parking garage will allow pedestrians to safely walk from UMBC Boulevard to the administration and fine arts buildings, Schaefer said.

The roundabout and landscaping will serve as a gateway to the campus. "Having something at that circle gives us an opportunity to have more of an entrance," Schaefer said.

Design for the roundabout will be done during 2013, with construction expected to begin in the spring of 2014. Officials plan on having the new traffic circle completed in time for UMBC's 50th anniversary in 2016, according to Schaefer.

Bruce Goldfarb August 05, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I coulda swore it used to be called Loop Road. I wonder when it was changed to Hilltop Circle? 166 is the segment from I-195 to Rolling Road. I-195 branches into 166 and UMBC Boulevard.
Chuck August 05, 2012 at 05:47 PM
It changed about the time of Hrabowski's arrival, and they stopped using 5401 Wilkens Ave. as the school's address. 166 was supposed to be part of the planned Metropolitan Blvd.
Mari August 06, 2012 at 06:41 AM
$13.2 MILLION dollars for a traffic circle and associated footpaths and landscaping??? To avoid an average of 9.8 accidents a year because people drive faster than they should? Based on the map, they already own/control the land so why does it cost so much? I would love to see a budget breakdown on this. If you ever wonder why the federal government has debt and the state of Maryland is raisng taxes - again. $13.2 million?????
Matt Ruzicka August 06, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Mari, if the average drive-way repaving costs around $10K, and thats just removing and repaving a driveway, its not that far fetched to see why a major renovation to a college's infrastructure would cost this much. Stop living in the past when costs were artificially kept low. Stuff costs money and alot of it.
Mari August 06, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Matt, I would still like to see where the money is being spent. How many people have to pay taxes to get to $13.2 million? If it really costs this much, perhaps they shouldn't be doing it at all.

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