October 23, 2018
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  • Although a sign directs students to cross Benfield Road at one of the nearby crosswalks, many students disregard the sign, much to the concern of residents who live nearby.
    Photo by Dylan Roche
    Although a sign directs students to cross Benfield Road at one of the nearby crosswalks, many students disregard the sign, much to the concern of residents who live nearby.
  • Although a sign directs students to cross Benfield Road at one of the nearby crosswalks, many students disregard the sign, much to the concern of residents who live nearby.
    Photo by Dylan Roche
    Although a sign directs students to cross Benfield Road at one of the nearby crosswalks, many students disregard the sign, much to the concern of residents who live nearby.

Residents Express Concern Over Pedestrian Crossing And Traffic Flow Along New SPHS Campus

Dylan Roche
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September 5, 2018

Construction of the new Severna Park High School wrapped up at the end of 2016, and demolition of the old school and creation of the parking lots and athletic fields concluded in spring 2018. There remain, however, a few problems left to be solved before life goes back to normal along Benfield Road.

Vehicular and pedestrian traffic have become “a very complicated problem,” according to Nestor Flores, chief of the traffic engineering division of Anne Arundel County’s Department of Public Works.

“It all started with the high school campus being redone,” Flores said. “We saw some concerns from the community regarding traffic flow operations between the Benfield, Robinson and Evergreen intersection. The kids are crossing unprotected, particularly in the afternoon after school.”

Although crosswalks exist at the main entrance into the student parking lot, where Benfield intersects with Robinson and Evergreen, and at the entrance to the teacher’s lot, where there is no intersection, students have tried to cross Benfield Road in other places. Crossing guards are stationed at the crosswalks before and after school, but several residents have expressed concern that the heavy traffic along Benfield Road is too much for even the guards and crosswalks.

“There have already been instances of crossing guards being injured, minor accidents and near misses of students,” said George Foote, president of Severna Gardens Improvement Association. “Hopefully, it won’t take a tragedy to spur more action.”

Sandy Mitchell, president of the Evergreen Estates Community Association, added that “distracted drivers and distracted students” complicate what is already a difficult traffic pattern. “Crosswalks are normally associated with intersections; that crosswalk does not sit in a typical place where you’d think of a crosswalk being,” she explained, referring to the crosswalk at the teacher’s lot entrance.

Two options for traffic signals were put before community members at a July meeting, but neither was unanimously seen as a good fix to the problems, primarily because the flashing lights would be a disturbance to the houses along Benfield Road. Flores agreed to take the concerns of citizens into consideration and conduct further studies to develop more options — a plan that citizens such as Mitchell appreciate. “We want to look into it extensively before we put up flashing lights and change the complexion and quality of the place of living,” she said. “What you don’t expect out there is flashing lights. You want this to be a treed neighborhood and more serene than that.”

Mitchell emphasized that she wants the dialogue between the county and citizens to remain positive as they seek the best solution.

“Safety should be the No. 1 concern for everyone,” said West Severna Park resident Doug Shade. “Visuals need to be provided for the various options that are being proposed. Visuals would help people understand how these changes will enhance or harm a community’s safety and traffic.”

Foote commended Flores and DPW for seeking ways to improve safety and traffic flow and noted that the school system also has a role in seeking a solution. “What communities failed to remember is that Anne Arundel County Public Schools was and is responsible for this situation existing,” he said. “During the planning and actual construction, there was no coordination with Anne Arundel County, Traffic Engineering or Anne Arundel County Police as to adequate parking on SPHS grounds, traffic light integration, traffic flow or crosswalk security. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t even a crosswalk proposed for the staff parking area at all.”

Like Mitchell and Foote, many residents see the root of the safety problem being traced back to the volume of traffic along Benfield Road and Robinson Road. Pedestrian crossing is only one of the problems. “The difficulty of maneuvering in and out of driveways and side streets onto Benfield and Robinson is real,” Foote said. “The speed of aggressive traffic heading east or west, or turning onto Evergreen, is beyond concerning.”

Flores indicated that his approach will be first to address the pedestrian issue, then proceed with the issues of overall traffic operation and congestion. “The next step is to engage the community,” he said. “I have already contacted the West Severna Park community to set up a meeting to discuss.”

Concerned citizens in surrounding neighborhoods should check with their community improvement associations or homeowners associations to find out when they can schedule a meeting with the traffic engineering division.

“We’re not going to be able to solve it perfectly,” Flores said, “but we at least want to see how much we can improve.”


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