Keswick intersection creates Catch 22 Driver hit inching up for better view

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

September 27, 1993

Eternal vigilance is the price of safe roads.

Intrepid Commuter likes to throw out those little aphorisms this time of year. December is fast approaching. Wouldn't an embroidered sampler with that motto make a lovely holiday gift?

Consider the experience of Carla Adams a living example of the wisdom in this saying. She wants the rest of Baltimore to become alert to the danger of Singer Avenue and Keswick Road in Hampden.

Singer Avenue is a narrow, one-way street sloping down to Keswick. Making matters worse, Keswick curves at that point, and it's usually lined with parked cars. The combination is a formula for poor visibility.

Several years ago, the Adams family's Toyota Tercel was struck by an uninsured motorist at the intersection. Mrs. Adams' husband, Bob, had inched into the intersection to get a better look at traffic when they were hit.

"It's a Catch-22," says Mrs. Adams, a Hamilton resident whose parents live in Hampden. "If you nudge out to see, you get hit. Our insurance company said we had no business being in the intersection."

Since then, the Adamses have treated the intersection with fear and loathing.

When they drive there, someone will get out, walk into Keswick to look for traffic and wave the car forward when it's clear. Mrs. Adams wants the city to put stop signs on Keswick. Without them, she said, "I'm afraid someone's going to get hurt."

At our urging, the city sent an inspector from the public works department to Hampden to take a look at the problem. He agreed the visibility is poor.

Rather than stop traffic on Keswick, however, the city will restrict parking on Keswick around Singer -- about one-car length in both directions, says Marcia Collins, a spokeswoman for the department.

"This is an older neighborhood, and people rely more on cars than when these streets were first constructed," Ms. Collins says.

Once again, our streets are a little bit safer because average citizens pay attention to potential hazards.

I-70 and U.S. 29: Let's try it again

Although we generally discard mail from attorneys, we had to pay attention to a recent missive from Timothy S. Mitchell, Esq.

First, it was a flattering letter. (It used the salutation, "Dear In," which suggested a familiarity we usually reserve for the immediate family).

Secondly, Mr. Mitchell (or should we call him Ti?) is a prosecutor. We make it a rule to respond promptly to people who lock other people up.

But more importantly, Mr. Mitchell's letter described a rather vexing problem familiar to Our Intrepidness. Quite a few of our readers have called to complain about this particular predicament.

Mr. Mitchell writes of the exit ramp from westbound Interstate 70 to southbound U.S. 29 in Howard County. During the summer, changes were made to improve traffic flow that may have unintentionally made the exit more dangerous.

For those who don't travel I-70 on a regular basis, you should know that U.S. 29 is a popular exit, shunting thousands of cars toward Ellicott City, Columbia and points south each day. The interstate is three lanes wide at this point, and the left lane is an exit-only ramp to U.S. 29.

During the peak periods of traffic, cars lining up to exit spill into the adjacent lane. So engineers at the State Highway Administration came up with a solution: Give traffic in the center lane the option of exiting or continuing west.

This made sense since the ramp has two lanes, anyway.

But here's the rub: no signs warn of the change; only new lines painted on the highway, and some motorists are ignoring them.

Small wonder. The old lines have not been fully erased.

"Those who follow the new lane changes are conflicting with those who simply do not pay attention (which I might add is too many drivers out there)," Mr. Mitchell writes. "There is the potential for a serious accident."

The Intrepid One was pleased to discover that the SHA agrees with Mr. Mitchell and is taking steps to improve the situation. Work crews will soon be returning to the ramp to:

* Do a better job of erasing the old lines.

* Install an overhead sign telling motorists about the optional turn lane.

* Paint new lines starting nearly a mile away to show that traffic in both the center lane and the left lane may exit at U.S. 29.

George R. Miller, an SHA traffic engineer, said the old markings were difficult to remove. Even when crews used grinding equipment, the old lines still were visible: the cleaned concrete was lighter in color than the surrounding pavement.

"There's a tendency for motorists to follow old habits," Mr. Miller says. "We thought the existing signs were appropriate enough. It didn't seem like that big a change."

KEEP IN TOUCH

Write to the Intrepid Commuter, c/o The Baltimore Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278. Please include your name and telephone number so we can reach you if we have any questions.

Or use your Touch-Tone phone to call Sundial, The Baltimore Sun's telephone information service, at 783-1800, and enter Ext. 4305. Call 268-7736 in Anne Arundel County.

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