Mountain Road to get light, left-turn lanes

November 28, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Joppa residents who have been complaining for some time about dangerous conditions on Mountain Road south of U.S. Route 1 may see a solution in the works by next spring.

State highway officials say that a traffic light and left-turn lanes will be installed on Mountain Road (state Route 152) at Old Joppa.

Charles Harrison, district engineer for the State Highway Administration, said a recent analysis of accident patterns and traffic volume in the area indicated that a traffic light is warranted.

There is currently a "caution" light at the intersection that flashes yellow on Mountain Road and red on Old Joppa.

Mr. Harrison said that bids on the project would be accepted after the beginning of 1994. Completion of the project is expected in May.

The intersection has been the site of numerous accidents, nine of which involved personal injury or major property damage in 1993.

The most recent was Nov. 18, when a Joppa woman and her 10-year-old son suffered minor injuries as their minivan, heading south on Mountain Road, overturned after hitting a car that crossed its path on Old Joppa.

State police records indicate there have been 28 accidents at the intersection since 1990, though residents say that many more fender-benders, which generally go unreported, have also occurred there.

"The accidents seem to be increasing," said Assistant District Engineer Darrell Wiles, who conducted the most recent study of the intersection in September. He said that while "raw numbers" are important, they are not as significant as the "pattern of accidents" that has evolved.

"Here we had a location where the accidents were predominantly right-angle collisions," he said. That pattern indicates that the flow of traffic prevents drivers on Old Joppa Road venturing onto or across Mountain Road "without taking significant risks."

He said that personal observations of the intersection during peak traffic hours confirmed the results of the accident and volume studies.

"Some delays are inevitable, but when you find excessive delays and you see people taking chances because of the delays, then you have a problem," he said.

The results were not news to residents of the developments off Mountain Road, who have complained that speeding and heavy traffic, particularly during rush hour, make it nearly impossible to enter Mountain Road from side roads or to turn left from it into their neighborhoods.

Other than the flashing light at Old Joppa, there are no traffic signals on the 4 1/2 -mile stretch of Mountain Road between U.S. 1 and Interstate 95. The speed limit is 50 mph.

In July, Councilwoman Joanne Parrot, a District B Republican, organized a meeting of residents and highway officials to discuss what might be done to slow drivers on the two-lane road.

Residents suggested radar and traffic signals as remedies, but highway officials said at the time they feared traffic lights weren't the answer.

They said the heavy volume of traffic could cause backups at the light, which could cause more severe problems.

Officials said then that they would reassess the situation in the fall, after school started and new ramps to and from I-95 at Mountain Road were opened. The ramps opened in August.

The reassessment, officials say now, suggests that a traffic light would alleviate some problems along the roadway. The I-95 access ramps have not appreciably increased traffic on Mountain Road, Mr. Harrison said.

He also noted that there is adequate room at the intersection to create an additional lane on Mountain Road for left-turning vehicles.

The left-turn lanes, accommodating both north- and southbound drivers, will prevent through traffic from creating a backup at the intersection.

Mr. Harrison said that drivers will reap two benefits from the new signal: It will allow people to cross Mountain Road safely at Old Joppa, and it will create gaps in traffic, making it easier for drivers using other side roads to enter or leave Mountain Road.

He said the light should also help drivers heading west on Singer Road, a popular shortcut from Abingdon to I-95.

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