Access and Circulation
The University has four vehicular portals, UMBC Boulevard, Hilltop Road, Walker Avenue and Poplar Avenue. These main access points lead one directly to a ring road, Hilltop Circle that must serve as a welcoming element, an organizing device for orienting visitors and at the same time provide a linear parking lot. While Hilltop Circle provides easy access to parking and removes the majority of traffic from the center of campus, it remains a physical barrier to the cohesive growth of the campus beyond the ring road.
UMBC continues to strive for a pedestrian-friendly and sustainable campus. The Master Plan addresses this desire with four distinct projects:
1. The modification of Hilltop Circle with enhanced tree plantings, crosswalks and signage to alter the character of the roadway and reduce vehicular speeds. The University is installing enhanced pedestrian crossings at Poplar Avenue and other areas to improve connectivity to areas outside the ring road. In addition, the section of roadway between Walker Avenue and Hilltop Road to the west of the campus core and between Commons Drive and Poplar Avenue to the east will be redesigned to allow for an expansion of development and stronger pedestrian connections.
2. The Commons Plaza will be transformed into a student-oriented plaza allowing for service to The Commons when it is needed. The current configuration creates a large and unnecessary, vehicular loop that impedes pedestrian circulation between the academic and residential neighborhoods of the campus.
3. Poplar Avenue and Center Road will be transformed from a traditional street to a pedestrian way that can support motor vehicles when necessary. This will alter the feel of the campus in these areas and provide for improved connectivity between residential communities, academic buildings and parking areas. Emergency vehicles, planned service deliveries, maintenance vehicles, and other service vehicle access (loading and unloading) will still be possible. Walker Avenue, Administration Drive and Commons Drive will remain accessible vehicular ways to parking garages, but enhancements to these streets are planned to improve the walkability of the campus.
4. In addition, the campus is proposing a roadway and access project to address both safety and orientation. The proposed Campus Traffic Safety and Circulation Improvement Project will create a safer vehicular access at the intersection of UMBC Boulevard and Hilltop Circle. The project will also create a more visitor friendly gateway into the campus, with a drop-off area aligned with the main campus pedestrian spine.
This project provides renewal of the south campus entrance via UMBC Boulevard. This major entrance directly connects I-195 to the campus’ primary road, Hilltop Circle. The current configuration of this primary campus access point is unsafe for pedestrians and drivers, leads to vehicular backups during peak times, is confusing for visitors, is un-welcoming, and requires a circuitous route to enter and leave the visitor parking area.
The project will redesign the intersection of UMBC Boulevard and Hilltop Circle to correct vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian safety and circulation problems. Specific measures that will be taken to eliminate safety concerns will include the installation of a roundabout at the intersection, an appropriate roadway signage system, and clearly delineated pedestrian and bicycle pathways. A secondary circular drive will be installed to provide direct access to visitor parking as well as a safe, designated passenger drop-off near the Administration Building. The south campus entrance will become a boulevard, providing the requisite presence for the gateway to the UMBC campus.
Proposed Campus Traffic Safety and Circulation Improvement Project
To encourage transit use the University has embarked in 2009 on a program of enhancing bus stops on campus. Through the cooperation of the Maryland Transit Administration campus bus stations have been relocated to facilitate use and wayfinding. In addition, on-going projects are improving access routes, widening waiting areas and replacing existing bus shelters with new structures. The University is committed to increasing convenience and awareness of transit options as a way to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles on campus, thereby reducing UMBC’s carbon footprint.
The master plan for the UMBC campus seeks to enhance pedestrian circulation on campus by:
- developing a campus framework to inform decisions on the placement of buildings and the development of open space and circulation paths;
- improving pedestrian routes within the campus and extending these routes out beyond Hilltop Circle with clear crossings of this roadway, which currently serves as a barrier to pedestrian circulation;
- providing better access to the natural areas on campus with new bridges over streams and clear entries and paths leading to these wonderful, but underappreciated assets;
- providing better access to and between the residential communities with clear and accessible paths;
- creating a campus that accommodates all users.
This challenge is great given the topography. The University is increasing the full accessibility of more buildings on campus, especially residential units that were built without elevators. In 2010 new elevator cores will grant full accessibility to Susquehanna and Patapsco Halls, and in the future to Chesapeake Hall. In addition, the University is studying access routes on campus and developing a signage system with maps and trailblazers to guide mobility impaired students, faculty, staff and visitors to accessible routes. The University will also construct two new ramps in 2010 to replace or augment existing stairs on important pedestrian routes and improve mobility.
The University desires to improve pedestrian and biking connectivity to the commercial areas of the adjoining communities of Arbutus and Catonsville. Better physical connectivity will support ongoing outreach programs between the university and its neighbors.