Hickory Ridge Road to be reconfigured for increased safety

March 30, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

The county plans to redesign Hickory Ridge Road in response to concerns that speeding and an increase in traffic have endangered children at school bus stops and motorists leaving and entering residential streets.

"There's always been a [tension] between people who want to go through the area at 90 miles per hour and people who live in the area who can't get out of their driveways," said James Loesch, chairman of the Hickory Ridge village board.

Hickory Ridge village residents say traffic -- and accidents -- have increased significantly over the last few years since the expansion of Broken Land Parkway, which connects with Hickory Ridge Road, and the opening of a parkway interchange with Route 29.

Since 1991, 41 accidents along Hickory Ridge Road have been reported to Howard County police, including 10 at the intersection of Sunny Spring, said Sgt. Steve Keller, police spokesman.

Neighborhood parents launched a campaign in fall 1992 to improve safety at school bus stops along Hickory Ridge Road, complaining that motorists often sped past school buses with red lights flashing.

"Now, if you just step off the curb, you're in traffic. There's no buffer zone at all," said Lauri Schwab, whose daughter catches a bus on Hickory Ridge Road.

In an attempt to address traffic complaints, the county will install a traffic light at Sunny Spring within the next three months, said C. Edward Walter, chief of the county's Traffic Engineering Division.

Also, Hickory Ridge Road will be reconfigured later this year to narrow traffic from four lanes to two lanes from Sunny Spring to Martin Road, to add left turn lanes for residential streets and business entrances, and to provide space for parking where appropriate, he said.

The project, which involves painting new lines on the road to change traffic patterns, also will create a shoulder allowing school buses to ease out of traffic to pick up children.

Ms. Schwab said the planned changes are "definitely a step in the right direction."

But she added that the plan is no guarantee that speed will be reduced.

Sandra Johnson, president of the Hickory Hollow Community Association, called it "nearly impossible" to pull out of the townhouse development in the evening because of speeding and limited sight distance.

"People want to drive 45 to 55 [mph], which is pretty fast in a residential community," she said.

Ms. Johnson said she supports re-striping the road as a relatively inexpensive first step. But if speeding is not reduced, other measures, such as traffic circles, should be considered, she said.

Mr. Walter said Hickory Ridge Road doesn't need two lanes in each direction to handle its traffic, and that accidents have occurred because motorists have to stop in the fastest lane to make a left turn.

The traffic division wants to channel more traffic to Little Patuxent Parkway, a four-lane divided road that runs parallel to Hickory Ridge and has a higher speed limit.

"We want Hickory Ridge Road to be a between-neighborhood street, rather than an arterial," he said.

The county also will convert all mercury vapor street lights along Hickory Ridge Road to high-pressure sodium lights, which are brighter and require less energy, as part of a countywide replacement program, Mr. Walter said. Also, more street lights will be installed on Hickory Ridge Road, he said.

Mr. Loesch said Columbia sorely needs more street lighting.

"In the early days of Columbia, they tried to apply rural standards. There's been an evolution," Mr. Loesch said. "Now we really are an urban area, and we need appropriate amenities. Street lighting is one."

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