Residents Seek Traffic Light For Dangerous Intersection

September 15, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

More than 140 Waterloo Road and Montgomery Run residents met with state and county officials Thursday to demand a traffic light and otherimprovements at their intersection "before someone is killed."

"That person responsible for getting us a light because they died out there will never know it and will never be given any credit," one resident told the crowd.

There have been no fatalities yet, but the number of accidents atthe intersection of Waterloo and Montgomery Run has doubled in the past year, and the situation will only get worse six months from now when the Montgomery Run subdivision is completed, residents told officials.

There are 515 homes in Montgomery Run and 202 in nearby Ashton Woods, which uses Montgomery Run Road to get to Route 108.

Whencompleted, Montgomery Run will have 588 homes. Montgomery Run Road is the only way in or out of the subdivision.

Rather than simply tell officials their problem, residents decided to show them. They videotaped the intersection Monday during moring and evening rush hours.

The soft-sell approach seems to have worked, at least partially. Gene Staub, district engineer for the State Highway Administration, told residents that when Montgomery Run is completed, the State HighwayDepartment will re-evaluate its position on the traffic light.

Meanwhile, Staub said, "we will revise the (highway) markings, create an exclusive left-turn lane, and ask Howard County police for selective enforcement."

Although the 45-mph speed limit along Route 108 is"adequate," Staub said, the problem is that the "prevailing speeds" is about 55 mph.

"We have the same goals you do," Staub said.

"Improve traffic safety -- that's my life. We must determine what we put out there is an improvement."

Residents told Staub and a panel of state and local officials that their chief difficulty during the morning rush hour is turning left from Montgomery Run onto Route 108.

The route acts as a funnel for traffic from Ellicott City, Dorsey's Search, and Long Reach to Interstate 95.

Montgomery Run Road joins Route 108 at the foot of a steep hill. Southbound drivers often don't see the road until they reach it. Residents who wish to turn ontoRoute 108 during rush hour must wait up to two minutes per vehicle to make the turn.

Once they turn, they must watch out for vehicles entering the highway from a service station on their left and for speeding cars bearing down on them from behind.

"The entrance is absolutely blind," says Kim Abramson, president of the group that plannedthe meeting.

"You're watching your rear view mirror, praying thatsomeone doesn't hit you, and you're flooring it. It's such a hazard -- cars bearing down on you, traffic from the gas station darting in front of you. No one should have to live like that."

Abramson saysshe is especially worried each time she makesthe turn because she was involved in a serious accident a year ago at another intersection. That experience led her to invite eight victims of Montgomery Run collisions to tell officials their stories.

"October a year ago, my wife and I were turning left into Montgomery Run when we were hit by acar going 50 miles an hour," one man said.

"It knocked the back seat under the front seat. We were lucky we didn't have kids. We came within an inch of our life" of getting killed.

Another accident victim said a small compact car "totaled" his large car when he was hitfrom behind. "If you're not going to put in a light, at least do something about the speeding," he told officials.

Residents have beenrequesting a traffic light at the intersection for two years, and more than 500 residents signed a petition last December calling on SHA to install one.

Until now, the state has refused, saying traffic levels at the intersection do not warrant a traffic light.

"Everything we have done has fallen on a deaf ear," Abramson said. "We kept getting closer and closer," but nothing "preventive" has been done.

She said she called out "the big guns -- the politicians" Thursday night to discover first hand "a classic example of when federal standards for traffic lights don't work."

Her approach seems to have succeeded. County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, told the crowd, "We will see some action, rest assured of that."

Gray was the "keynote speaker and discussion leader."

State Sen. Thomas M. Yeager, D-13, told residents the state and county must "look comprehensively" at the traffic problem from Route 104 to Old Montgomery Road and that more than a traffic light is needed.

Delegate Virginia Thomas,D-13A, told residents she hoped the state and county would "look immediately at signage when you come over that hill."

It also "wouldn't hurt to get the police out there with radar," Thomas said.

"My concern is lack of planning. Why does every subdivision have to come out onto 108? To have 10 to 15 cars backed up is insane, yet the county continues to plan that way."

Delegate Martin Madden, R-13B, told residents it is "important that you have faith in your government."He said he will work to make the changes residents want.

DelegateJohn Morgan, R-13B, told residents there needs to be "significant signages and yellow flashing lights letting people knowwhat's happeningon the other side of that hill. This is not the quality of life you deserve. Enough is enough."

Abramson said that while support for residents' concerns was "fantastic," government needs to act immediately rather than wait for Montgomery Run to be completed.

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