TRAFFIC 'Jug handle' planned Foes seek signal for Royer junction

August 31, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,STAFF WRITER

State highway officials call their new "jug-handle" design for the Royer Road-Route 140-Meadow Branch Road intersection west of Westminster unique and innovative.

But it looks illogical and expensive to some local residents, who say a traffic light would be simpler and cheaper.

State Highway Administration engineers counter that through and left-turning traffic entering Route 140 from the two side roads isn't heavy enough to meet state standards for a signal.

Local residents and SHA staff members are scheduled to discuss the intersection at a meeting set for 10 a.m. Sept. 15 at Meadow Branch Church of the Brethren, Route 140 and Royer Road.

"This is an opportunity. We can do something better than a traffic signal," said Gene Straub, SHA assistant district engineer for traffic.

The SHA proposal:

* Cars on Royer or Meadow Branch Road would be permitted only right turns onto Route 140.

* To cross or turn left on Route 140 from Royer Road, traffic would turn left on Old Taneytown Pike, which runs between the Meadow Branch church and its cemetery. The road would be widened, resurfaced and connected with Route 140 about 1,200 feet west of the existing intersection. Traffic could turn left on to Route 140 at the new intersection. To reach Meadow Branch Road, drivers would turn right on Route 140, travel east 1,200 feet and turn left.

* From Meadow Branch Road, through or left-turning traffic would turn right on Route 140, go to the new intersection, turn left and come up to Royer Road. Drivers could turn left on Royer Road to reach eastbound Route 140.

The idea is meeting skepticism.

"We'd have to go about half a mile around to make a simple left-hand turn," said the Rev. J. Melvin Fike, pastor of Meadow Branch Church. "I'm not sure that makes a whole lot of sense to me."

Mr. Fike said that a traffic signal seems like a simpler and less costly solution.

The SHA estimates the project cost at $400,000. That includes about $200,000 for a right-turn lane from Route 140 to Meadow Branch Road, Mr. Straub said. It may be included in the 1994-1995 budget.

State guidelines say a traffic signal would be justified if through or left-turning traffic from Royer or Meadow Branch Road averaged 70 vehicles an hour for eight hours. Neither road comes close to 70 vehicles per hour, even in peak hours, Mr. Straub said. The highest traffic counts SHA recorded were 49 vehicles on Meadow Branch Road and 50 on Royer Road between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The SHA has some flexibility to install traffic signals where the counts are close to the standard, Mr. Straub said. But agency officials have to consider potential lawsuits if they approve an unjustified traffic signal and accidents occur at the intersection, he said.

Virginia Stoner, who chairs a Meadow Branch Church committee on the intersection, said she thinks a recent speed limit reduction from 50 mph to 45 mph and an overhead warning sign on Route 140 have helped. But she remains opposed to the jug-handle proposal.

"It will be dangerous, hard for our members to get to the churchyard and expensive," Mrs. Stoner said.

Republican state Sen. Larry E. Haines, who has been involved in discussions on the intersection for about three years, sees problems with the jug-handle design.

"It will create two [additional] dangerous intersections," he said. The new intersections of Old Taneytown Pike at Route 140 and at Royer Road will be dangerous, he said.

Mr. Straub said the jug-handle design will "clear up all the conflicting movements we have at that intersection."

The new design will be much safer, although it may inconvenience some drivers, he said.

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