Owings Mills Boulevard

2017 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement

Over $20 Million

Baltimore County Department of Public Works | Owner

Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson | Consultant

Kibler Construction Company | Contractor

Owings Mills Boulevard in Baltimore County, is a north-south arterial road, supporting traffic between established commercial developments, large retail presences, and a commuter rail station. The community is a designated growth area for Baltimore County, and for more than 20 years the County has established planning/zoning strategies and policies to foster area development. Drivers previously relied on indirect routes, navigating through residential areas to travel between the nearby communities. The County sought to provide a roadway extension to connect these districts directly with Reisterstown Road and Liberty Road – key local west-east arterials – and create a safer, quicker way to travel. Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson (JMT) designed both phases of the Owings Mills Boulevard south extension project.

To accommodate the budget, environmental permitting challenges, and obtaining necessary rights-of-way, the County decided to construct the project in two phases. A 1.2-mile extension of Owings Mills Boulevard from Lyons Mills Road to Winands Road, known as Phase 1, was constructed and opened in August 2012. Phase 2, which was completed in July 2016, involved the design of approximately 0.8 miles of four-lane divided roadway from Liberty Road to Winands Road. The complete extension also included new sidewalk, a bike path, retaining walls, and 0.38 miles of improvements along Liberty Road (MD 26). JMT, as lead designer, provided project management, design, design coordination with subconsultants, and bid and construction phase services for the project over several years. Major elements included highway design, bridge and retaining wall design, drainage and stormwater management, erosion and sediment control, maintenance of traffic, landscape design, and utility coordination. 

The Owings Mills Boulevard project featured several unique elements that continue to benefit the community:

JMT was sensitive to the social environment by incorporating aesthetically-pleasing design elements. These included textured and colored screen walls adjacent to residential areas, similar aesthetic treatments applied to the bridge over Horsehead Branch, and decorative inlays used on crosswalks to provide context sensitivity to the roadway and surrounding area. Architectural treatments were designed and constructed throughout the corridor, including a new entrance sign for the Kings Park Estates community. Sustainable roadside plantings also provided screening and privacy to adjacent properties.

The project supported sustainable transportation options with sidewalks throughout and a bicycle path connecting residential amenities and parks. These elements promoted a sense of community and enhanced quality of life. 

JMT designed more than 6,600 LF of storm drain and 100 storm drain structures. Three stormwater facilities were designed, including the retrofit of one existing facility to provide additional water quality and quantity treatment for impervious areas reaching all the facilities. The retrofit, which required coordination and approval by the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability and SHA, incorporated forebays and filtering devices.

Joint permits were obtained to cover the entire Owings Mills Boulevard south extension, including wetland mitigation design and stream restoration and mitigation. JMT also prepared a forest stand delineation and forest conservation plan for the project. Coordination with Maryland Historical Trust addressed impacts to historical properties along the corridor. JMT incorporated sustainable best management practices (BMP) into the stormwater management design, providing attractive BMP facilities that treat stormwater runoff.

A pre-cast beam, two-span bridge was incorporated to address both the structural requirements as well as the hydraulic requirements and floodplain for Scotts Level Branch. Additionally, JMT provided all vacuum excavation utility test pits for utility locating. This service was essential to the project meeting budget and schedule. 

Primary challenges involved determining an alignment through the existing Lyonswood neighborhood and avoiding sensitive environmental features associated with Horsehead Branch. Given these restrictions, the design team was challenged to reduce the project footprint to limit impacts to properties.  

JMT worked with the County and SHA to get access management permits for improvements along Liberty Road. We also coordinated with Baltimore County Water and Wastewater Sections and BGE to incorporate water mains and conduit for future roadway lighting, as well as Columbia Gas to relocate two 20-inch transmission mains. JMT performed property research and developed plats for a Columbia Gas line easement, as well as plats for acquisition of right-of-way and easements along Liberty Road. We assisted the County in acquiring a private parcel to address land impacted along Wildwood Park as part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Project Open Space conversion process. 

We provided bioretention and innovative sand filter water quality features, mitigated for both permanent and temporary wetland and forest buffer impacts associated with the project, and incorporated more than 2,800 trees, shrubs, and other plantings into the contract documents. Meanwhile, alternative lane widths and bridge lengths were examined to determine the set of features that best minimized environmental impacts and enhanced aesthetic quality.

Screen walls, architectural treatments on walls and bridges, a pedestrian/bicycle path, traffic barriers, and extensive landscaping were incorporated to soften the impact to the community. Design features were applied consistently throughout the project, giving a cohesive appearance. By using consistent design treatments and pedestrian/bicycle features, this roadway connects the communities along the corridor. Negative impacts to nearby communities were lessened by creating a high-quality design that used community input. The public responded positively to the project as a result of the attention to detail. 

The design of each phase was fast-tracked while addressing numerous environmental, political, and economic constraints. Innovative contract language reduced the cost risk to Baltimore County, including specifications for unsuitable material handling, pavement design options based on actual field conditions encountered, and foundation design alternatives that allowed flexibility during construction.

The full extension of Owings Mills Boulevard, which was completed on time and on budget, marks the culmination of considerable effort on behalf of Baltimore County, federal, state, and local regulators, the public, and engineering community.  

The County, with JMT’s assistance, addressed the challenges of constructing a new roadway through an existing neighborhood by providing continuous and open communication throughout the development of the planning, design, and construction phases of the project. This communication led to consensus on aesthetic and landscape treatments to blend the project into the context of the adjacent land uses. The County worked diligently to satisfy the concerns of the neighborhoods.

The project’s completion shortens travel times for commuters, reducing pollution and enhancing the sustainability of the travel patterns in the region. The connection of a “missing link” in the roadway network helps achieve the economic and growth orientated goals for the area.