Less danger is goal for Mountain Road

August 01, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Residents along Mountain Road in the Joppa area say they are tired of the hazardous traffic on that busy roadway and they want state officials to do something to slow drivers down.

Too many drivers exceed the 50 mph speed limit along the stretch of Mountain Road (Route 152) between Route 1 and Interstate 95, they say, risking the lives of those who use &L intersecting roads in residential areas off the two-lane highway.

The intersections at Cheyenne Avenue and Old Joppa Road, in particular, have been the scenes of numerous accidents in recent years.

More than 70 people, some representing neighborhood associations, attended a meeting called by County Council member Joanne Parrott, R.-District B, last week to discuss traffic safety with state police and State Highway Administration officials.

A recent accident involved an Indian Princess resident, County Council Secretary Doris Poulsen, whose car was rear-ended as she was waiting to turn left onto Cheyenne Avenue from #F southbound Mountain Road. Mrs. Poulsen was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore with seriousinjuries.

Four others were injured in the June 9 accident at evening rush hour when Mrs. Poulsen's car was forced into the path of a northbound van.

State highway officials say it's difficult to say how many accidents have occurred along Mountain Road in Joppa, since many fender-benders that don't involve injuries go unreported.

State Highway Administration traffic engineer Mickey Sheridan said that state police records indicate that 24 accidents at Old Joppa and Mountain roads have been reported in the last 3 1/2 years. But residents say many more accidents have occurred in the half-mile of roadway that includes that intersection.

In the last year, three people were killed at or near the intersection of Mountain and Cheyenne roads.

At the meeting, residents urged the use of everything from radar to the installation of traffic lights to discourage speeding on the two-lane road, which is particularly busy during morning and evening rush hours.

Most accidents, they say, result when residents, slowing to enter the developments off Mountain Road, are rear-ended, sideswiped or passed illegally by impatient drivers.

But Charles R. Harrison, district engineer with the State Highway Administration, said that engineers have reviewed accident reports from the area over the years and that, despite residents' beliefs, there is no pattern to the time of day or type of traffic violation involved.

"There are no clear-cut answers," he said.

Other than a flashing "caution" light at Old Joppa Road, there are no traffic signals on the 4 1/4 -mile stretch of Mountain Road between Route 1 and I-95.

"The openness just encourages speeding," said Mary Boyer, a 24-year resident of Rosemont Drive.

Debbie Darney of Jerusalem Road presented a petition at the meeting signed by 52 people requesting that the flashing light at Old Joppa be changed to a stoplight. She said she has seen three accidents in the area in the last two weeks.

But Mr. Harrison warned residents that installing a traffic light can create more problems than it prevents, including backups during rush hour.

"You don't just go out and throw up a red light," he said. "But I'm not ruling anything out."

"I haven't seen any radar on Mountain Road in 27 years," said David Eick, a Lins Drive resident who said it sounds like drag races are being run outside his home some evenings. He suggested that officials reduce the speed limit to 45 mph, increase fines for speeding and post large signs warning drivers of the consequences of breaking the law.

Other residents suggested that sobriety checkpoints be set up along Mountain Road, since some accidents have been blamed on alcohol consumption. They also noted that a commuter parking lot off Old Mountain Road and an MTA bus stop on Mountain near Cheyenne Avenue complicate traffic in the area.

First Sgt. J. D. Thomas, assistant commander at the state police Benson barracks, said that radar is relatively ineffective on a road like Route 152, which has high-volume traffic and nowhere for a police car to hide.

He also noted that sobriety checkpoints are more effective as a deterrent than as a means of catching drunken drivers. The costliness of the checkpoints, he said, limits them to high-volume intersections with a history of drunken-driving incidents.

Frank Messina, who represented the Indian Princess neighborhood association, said that traffic problems were not new to him, since he spent 30 years working in law enforcement for Baltimore County.

"But I was never afraid of the criminal element as much as I was to come home and turn left into my own neighborhood." He said that some mornings it takes five minutes to get out of the development.

"It's a terrible situation, and we only expect it to get worse when they open those two new intersections," he said, referring to the nearly completed ramps connecting I-95 to Route 152.

Mr. Harrison agreed that the interstate connections, as well as the resumption of school in September, would likely increase traffic. He said engineers will review traffic on Mountain Road in the fall, after school is back in session and the new ramps are open.

"It's not easy," he said. "If it were, we would have done something about it. We're taking a real hard look at it."

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