Road closing prompts residents' complaints Route 32 exit ramp deemed a hazard NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE

September 24, 1993|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Staff Writer

The closure of a 100-foot strip of roadway off the eastbound lanes of Route 32, which motorists once used to get onto southbound U.S. 1, has Savage residents fuming.

Over pork barbecue at Ma's Kettle, a local landmark, and in phone calls to County Council members, they complain the closure is causing big backups on the exit ramp to U.S. 1.

On July 30, State Highway Administration officials closed the strip, used as a merger lane, in hopes of reducing accidents. Traffic engineers attributed a number of accidents to motorists who used the short section as a way onto southbound U.S. 1.

Members of the council, the highway administration and the Savage Community Association plan to discuss the closure and possible alternatives at a community meeting Oct. 27.

That won't be soon enough for some residents.

"It's a real annoyance," said Ellen Waff, a member of the Savage Community Association. "Everybody's really angry. It's just a really bad situation."

Originally, the strip let motorists bypass a stop sign at the end of the Route 32 exit ramp to U.S. 1.

Because of the changed traffic pattern, motorists exiting eastbound Route 32 into Savage now must stop at the sign before moving onto U.S. 1.

That means they also must sit behind tractor-trailer trucks stopped at the sign and waiting to cross U.S. 1 to get into the city industrial park.

Residents say traffic sometimes backs up the exit ramp from U.S. 1 onto Route 32, about a quarter of a mile.

Savage resident Lisa Glenn, a waitress at Ma's Kettle on U.S. 1, said she has waited up to five minutes on the Route 32 exit ramp trying to get onto U.S. 1.

Ms. Glenn hears her customers talk days and evenings about the traffic problem.

"I've lived here for five years, and it [the ramp] wasn't a problem," Ms. Glenn said. "I thought they closed it because it was too convenient."

L State highway officials insist the merger lane was a hazard.

They say that motorists attempting to merge onto U.S. 1 sometimes rear-ended vehicles stopped at the Howard Street traffic light a few hundred feet south of the ramp.

Because of those and other accidents on U.S. 1 between Route 32 and Howard Street, the State Highway Administration has designated the area a "high accident location."

Any section of a state roadway that has 15 or more accidents a year is considered a high accident location, said Gene Straub, an assistant district engineer for the highway administration.

In 1991, the administration reported 21 accidents with 14 injuries on U.S. 1 between Route 32 and Howard Street.

Of those 21 accidents, seven were said to have been the result of lane merger problems from the Route 32 east exit ramp onto U.S. 1. Those seven accidents left eight people injured.

In 1992, highway administrators reported 16 accidents with nine injuries near U.S. 1 and Route 32. They blamed half of the accidents and two injuries on the Route 32 east exit ramp onto U.S. 1.

"We just felt that we had to take some action," said Mr. Straub, who conducted a study of the interchange.

"We do know that it [traffic] is backing up more than it was. . . . We have noticed that."

The residents' complaints already have had some effect.

Over the past month, the highway administration has taken another look at the traffic patterns at the interchange, prodded by the community and County Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, who represents Savage.

The agency will release its findings at the meeting with the community, Mr. Straub said.

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