More than a year since the Baltimore City Department of Transportation announced that it would conduct a study to find ways to ease traffic along the Orleans Street corridor, officials have come up with a plan that includes revamping signage, resurfacing pavement and installing speed bumps throughout the neighborhoods.
Transportation officials said the changes would begin “shortly” but did not give a specific date.
The study focused on traffic patterns where Orleans Street intersects with Washington Street and Ellwood Avenue. The corridor, which crosses residential neighborhoods that are largely populated by Black families, is part of Route 40, allowing commuters to travel from and to the surrounding counties.
A Baltimore Banner data analysis from 2022 found that the Dunbar-Broadway and CARE neighborhoods, both on Orleans Street, have had the first- and third-highest accident rates per resident when looking at the more densely populated parts of the city.
Department officials say they walked and drove through the corridor and talked to residents to come up with the best approach. They also gathered some traffic data, but the city no longer has access to it after one of the city officials who normally conducts studies resigned.
The feedback officials got from the community led the department to also look into adjacent side streets to “mitigate spillover impact.” The maintenance division is actively resurfacing pavement on side streets before it can begin installing speed humps. They have to find a contractor to do other similar work in the corridor.
As part of its plan to address car crashes, the department will use money funding a $3.5 million streetscape project. The funding would go towards improvements that include new sidewalks, ramps, driveways for pedestrians and traffic safety.
Dena Robinson, who lives in a rowhome in the CARE neighborhood, said there have been fewer car accidents since the department began the study, but the ones that occurred have been severe. She recalls one in which a man was hit while crossing North Collington Avenue and Orleans Street. A few months after that, there was a three-car collision that led to one car being completely turned on its side.
Since January 2023, there have been 33 accidents with injuries and 70 accidents without injuries on Orleans Street between North Washington Street and North Ellwood Avenue, according to a Baltimore Police Department spokesperson.
The Transportation Department presented the findings of its study to several people in the community who are members of the Livable Streets Coalition, a group created by Del. Robbyn Lewis that advocates for better traffic conditions. Robinson said the plan was a step in the right direction, but that it fell short.
“While DOT plans to add speed bumps onto side streets, there are currently no efforts that I’ve seen to do so where the community has seen most of the accidents occur,” she said, noting the intersection between Chester and Patterson.
“I understand DOT’s concern regarding traffic volume; however, we need to reach a point where we value pedestrian and cyclist safety and freedom of movement over that of cars.”
Correction: This story was updated to correct the neighborhood where Dena Robinson lives.