Left turns aren't all right at Perry Hall-White Marsh boulevards

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

July 18, 1994

Jane Lewis seeks Intrepid Commuter's guidance on left turns.

She understands the concept. As a matter of vocabulary, the words, "left," and "turn," don't present any great challenge.

But take a look at the intersection of Perry Hall and White Marsh boulevards near White Marsh Mall and you can understand how the execution of a left turn can become a bit tricky at times.

There are double left-turn lanes from all four directions at that intersection. The way the lights are timed, motorists turn left from opposite directions simultaneously.

But who decides which left-turners get what part of the intersection? Everybody is passing near the middle at the same time.

"When the others are coming toward me, they come out too far," Ms. Lewis says. "I've been in many close calls where cars have come right toward me when I'm trying to turn and they have no clue where they're going."

As a solution, she suggests dashed lines. The lines would outline the proper route for a left turn through the intersection.

"You should have a guide of where you should go," she says. "I was just curious why there weren't any lines."

For an answer we turned to the expert, Darrell "Lefty" Wiles, the State Highway Administration's main man for traffic in Baltimore and Harford counties. He tells us that dashed lines are a great idea -- for most other intersections, that is.

The problem with Perry Hall and White Marsh boulevards is that with eight different left-turn paths, so many --ed lines would create a veritable plate of spaghetti on the asphalt.

Of course, you could always paint lines for just one or two paths, but which would you choose? The traffic level is fairly balanced between the four lefts.

But the ever-resourceful Mr. Wiles has decided to take action: He's going to paint a diamond.

Actually, Mr. Wiles likens it to a bow tie (but frankly, we don't see it). The pavement marking is meant to segregate traffic, discouraging left-turns from driving so far forward they might interfere with left-turn traffic in the opposite direction.

The extra-wide white lines will be solid and about the width of a stop bar (those thick lines that tell drivers where to stop at intersections).

Mr. Wiles promises to have them painted within a month.

"It's not a standard marking -- the only place we've used it is nearby at Honeygo and Perry Hall boulevards," Mr. Wiles says. "But we think it can help us define the center of the intersection and lessen the potential for conflicts."

Signal sought for crash site

A northern Baltimore dentist is calling for a traffic light at the scene of a fatal accident.

Two months ago, a motorist was killed in a collision near Loch Raven Boulevard and Meridene Drive. The driver tried to make a right turn from the left lane and ran into the front of a Mass Transit Administration bus.

A traffic signal might not have made a difference in that crash, but Dr. Robin R. Gaber says a signal at that intersection could protect bus riders, joggers and shopping mall pedestrians who have to deal with speeding traffic.

"Many of those who viewed the shocking aftermath live or work in the area, and desperately desire a light to be installed there," Dr. Gaber writes. "Regardless of the cause, driver error or bus speed, it was unnecessary."

We presented Dr. Gaber's arguments to the city's public works department, and it agreed to do some research.

For 11 hours, an observer recorded traffic at that intersection. He noted a total of 793 vehicles westbound and 67 eastbound on Meridene. Loch Raven traffic totaled 8,100 vehicles southbound and 7,100 northbound for the same period.

Vanessa Pyatt, the department's spokeswoman, tells us that a cross-street like Meridene must average at least 75 vehicles per hour for eight hours in a row to justify a signal under federal guidelines.

Meridene fell short in the survey, averaging 75 for five hours and dipping below that for the other six.

It has also not been an accident-prone area. Police reports indicate there have been only three other accidents there over the past six years, none of which resulted in fatalities.

"There's a stop sign there, and that has worked sufficiently," Ms. Pyatt says. "We looked at the volumes to see if a signal is warranted, and that simply isn't the case."

More strange stuff at mysterious gate

Intrepid Commuter's July Fourth column concerning the idiot light has prompted an interesting response from our fellow motorists.

Faithful readers will recall that a Dodge van driven by Richard Yates of Woodlawn acted strangely whenever it passed Gate 2 at the Westinghouse Electric Corp. facility in Linthicum. The dashboard warning light for the anti-lock braking system would turn on briefly.

The folks at Dodge speculated that the problem probably had something to do with what engineers call "RF" or radio-frequency radiation, a possible byproduct of the radar testing going on at Westinghouse.

Well, surprise, surprise, other weird things have been recorded along Route 170 near Gate 2.

One man says his speedometer hesitates when he drives near there. A woman's radio buzzes. Several readers had similar problems with ABS idiot lights flashing on.

"Whenever I am listening to a cassette tape and reach the exact gate, there is a large blast that always emits from my speaker sounding like the speaker is going to blow out," says a reader named Peggy. "It does not do that when I have the radio on, just when I'm listening to the cassette deck."

None of the problems related by our readers sounded particularly dangerous. Just curious and kind of weird.

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