by Larry perl
"I have a 20-month-old daughter. I worry, very much so," said Furney, who moved to the 5800 block last summer.
Furney has been pestering the city since last year to slow the traffic on Bellona by using speed bumps or other calming devices.
But his complaints draw a verbal shrug from Frank Murphy, chief of planning for the Baltimore City Department of Transportation.
Murphy said Bellona is "a main drag" and is classified as a "minor arterial road."
"I'm not aware that it's dangerous," he said. "A lot of our arterials are residential."
Murphy said Furney is new to the area and shocked by the traffic that longtime residents take for granted.
"This is not just me," responded Furney, a resident of Old Homeland. "It was going on well before I got here. The community has been bugging people for years."
Now, Furney, a design team leader for the Army Corps of Engineers, is taking his fight to a new forum _ the Internet.
Like an online Paul Revere, Furney is e-mailing the York Road Partnership's listserv to sound the alarm and call for solutions, including the controversial proposal to close Bellona at York Road and make it one-way.
News travels fast, even faster on the Web, and Furney's crusade is getting a huge, though divided, response from the York Road Partnership, an umbrella group of community and business leaders that aims to improve the business and residential corridor.
A running e-mail conversation in recent weeks, especially among residents in the Lake-Evesham area, has turned the listserv into a chat room. But Furney's ideas also have garnered a slew of opinions.
Some e-mails question his motives in advocating the closing of Bellona at York, saying it smacks of NIMBYism _ Not In My Back Yard _ or worse, "apartheid," according to one e-mail.
Memories still linger of the debate in the 1980s and '90s over the closing of streets in affluent Guilford that run off York Road in predominantly black areas.
Others share Murphy's sentiments, saying Bellona is a city street and by its nature is bound to be trafficked.
"This is ridiculous," Furney said of the controversy. "It's to slow traffic down, not shut it off."
There's some support for Furney's premise that Bellona has gotten more congested, maybe because the State Highway Administration reconstruction project on York Road and the renewed popularity of the Belvedere Square shopping center are causing motorists to take Bellona as a detour.
"People have told me they will not shop in the market (Belvedere Square) because they can't get to the market," Furney said.
Murphy isn't sure how much, if any, effect Belvedere Square has on traffic. York Road construction may have more to do with it, he said.
But there's little support for Furney's proposed fixes.
"I am concerned about efforts that to me seem as if they are trying to privatize neighborhoods," said resident Debbie Jones, who opposes the closing of Bellona and speed bumps.
"People make choices about where they want to live," Jones said. "The nature of a city is that you have people living close together. I just think we shouldn't be doing things that change the nature of a city."
Bill Henry, who said he lives in the area and resided on Bellona as a boy, doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.
"To be honest with you, if things have gotten significantly worse in the last 20 years, it isn't obvious to me," he said in a listserv e-mail earlier this month.
Henry said closing off Bellona runs counter to its significance to the area.
"Bellona is an important part of the overall traffic pattern for our chunk of north Baltimore, providing an alternate north-south route to the Towson area, as well as a needed bypass" at the intersections of York Road, Northern Parkway and Belvedere Avenue, he said.
"...In return for putting up with traffic and noise, we are 20 minutes away from everything," he said. "But if each community decides to close off their streets to make them nicer, well then, we're going to be 40, 60, 80 minutes from everything and surrounded by cul-de-sacs _ at which point we might as well be living in some spanking new development far from the trials and travails of Charm City."
But Furney argued that closing off Bellona at York and installing a left-turn signal at northbound York and Northern would keep traffic moving on York and reduce traffic on Bellona.
"There is simply no reason to force traffic through a residential community," he wrote on the listserv.
York Road Partnership President Jason Canapp said debate over Bellona is symptomatic of traffic issues elsewhere along the York Road corridor.
"The whole traffic issue is big," he said.
Traffic has been bad for years, Canapp said, even before slumping Belvedere Square was redeveloped. A city study of York Road several years ago gave the traffic flow low marks, he said.
Compounding the problems is that the traffic light at York and Belvedere Avenue is badly timed, he said.
But it wasn't until recently, when a York Road Strategic Neighborhood Action Plan was developed, that the debate about traffic really got big.
"Before SNAP, no one talked about these things," Canapp said.
As "radical" as some perceive Furney's notion to be, there is one positive aspect to it, Canapp said.
"It has gotten people talking."