Signs of Confusion

March 14, 1994

Anne Arundel County fire dispatchers found themselves on the defensive last week after a mix-up in which rescue crews, called to help a woman who fell down the stairs at 1588 Eton Way in Crofton, went to 1588 Eaton Way in Annapolis instead. But give fire department officials a break. This mishap was more the fault of Anne Arundel County and its long history of handing out near-identical street names.

Browse through the Arundel criss-cross directory and the ADC street map, and you will realize it is a miracle that mistakes on emergency calls occur as rarely as they do (the Eton/Eaton problem was the first in a year). In fact, the fire department does a pretty good job of keeping track of confusing road names, of which there are many.

There are three Patuxent River Roads -- in Davidsonville, Harwood and Gambrills -- and two have similar house numbers.

There is North Shore Drive in Glen Burnie, North Shore Parkway in Churchton and North Shore Road in Pasadena.

Severna Park has Northway; Millersville has Northway Drive.

There is a Railroad Avenue in Pasadena, Odenton, Harmans and Hanover.

Hillcrest Road can be found in Riva, Pasadena, Hanover, Odenton, Arnold and Glen Burnie!

Magellan would have been confused by all the derivations of Bay Ridge, Bay Front, Bayside and Bayview.

Don't blame the current Department of Public Works, which assigns road names, for this confusion. Many of these names date back decades. Eton Way, for example, was named in 1964 and Eaton Way in 1978. Arundel officials didn't start checking for similarity of street names until the late 1970s and the genesis of 911. Today, DPW checks proposed names against the county computer system, the criss-cross and area maps. Exact duplications are not permitted, and recently the county started working with the city of Annapolis, which names its own streets, to avoid overlap.

Still, there's too much room for similarity. Public works officials concede they probably would approve a Lollipop Lane in Odenton, even if there was a Lollipop Way in Glen Burnie. This is asking for trouble. Not only should the county be more particular, but it ought to use its power to alter confusing street names. Typically, the street that had a name first gets to keep it. That makes Eaton Way a good candidate for change.

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