SHA officials again try to bring Lisbon residents around to seeing their way

October 21, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

The way Neil Pedersen of the State Highway Administration sees it, the people of Lisbon are not much different from residents of a small town in Australia.

The Australians didn't want a traffic circle either.

Mr. Pedersen, director of planning and preliminary engineering, was among about a dozen SHA representatives who last night tried to convince about 140 Lisbon residents that they ought to be part of an experiment in traffic engineering.

But most residents who spoke said they didn't want to be guinea pigs in the experiment, which would put a "roundabout," otherwise known as a traffic circle, at the intersection of routes 94 and 144. The intersection had nearly 40 accidents during a five-year period ending in 1989, and residents asked for a traffic light to alleviate the problem.

Traffic on Route 94 is governed by flashing yellow lights and on Route 144 by flashing red lights with stop signs. The circle is expected to make the intersection safer, partly by forcing vehicles to slow down to 10 to 20 mph from the current 45 mph speed limit.

The circle would cost $100,000 to $150,000 and would be the first of its kind in Maryland. The circle is an old-fashioned idea that has recently come back into vogue with traffic engineers in other parts of the world.

In the small town in Australia, the idea received a poor public reception, but was later shown to reduce traffic accidents by 75 percent, Mr. Pedersen told residents in the Lisbon fire hall. "They drive on the wrong side anyway," heckled one resident.

Lois Clark, a school bus driver for 14 years, asked how school buses were going to get around the 100- to 110-foot circle. SHA officials said they addressed that question earlier yesterday by having local school bus contractor Walter Sirk drive through a traffic-cone mock circle in the parking lot of George's supermarket.

Mr. Sirk was "delighted" with the circle, said Doug Rose, SHA district engineer.

Mr. Sirk disagreed. "We're not delighted with the thing at all," he said later. He told Mr. Rose that he drove around it with little trouble because he has 40 years of experience driving a bus.

"I love an obstacle course in a school parking lot," Ms. Clark said. "But I don't wish an obstacle course on anybody with a school bus full of kids."

More than a few residents were convinced that the experiment would improve the intersection.

"I think this is a great solution. I don't understand why there's so much opposition," said Sheila Jones, who lives south of town. About a third of those at the meeting applauded hers and other positive comments about the roundabout.

But many others said the idea seemed an unnecessary and unwelcome expenditure by a strapped state government. "This looks like a done deal to me and I want to catch the World Series. Can you just tell men when you're going to start building the thing?" said one man as he headed for the door.

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