Signal lights due at schools Parents, officials worry about traffic in Glenwood

'We'll continue working'

New left-turn lanes, speed enforcement on Route 97 also planned

November 05, 1997|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Flashing lights and new left-turn lanes are due to appear on Route 97 in Glenwood at two Howard County schools where heavy traffic and high speed have long been a concern of parents and school officials.

The announcement from the State Highway Administration drew praise from parents who have been pushing state officials for years to recognize the traffic problems facing Bushy Park Elementary and neighboring Glenwood Middle.

"We're excited," said Kay Sauers, chairwoman of the safety committee for Glenwood Middle School. "Those measures should really slow people down, let them know schools are there."

The highway administration, which has jurisdiction over the state road that runs in front of the schools, said no action is planned to reduce the 45-mph speed limit, but Howard County police said they would step up enforcement.

And plans for a new parking lot for both schools with a single exit onto Route 97 raise the possibility of the installation of a traffic signal in the future.

Restriping the pavement for the left-turn lanes is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving, said John Concannon, assistant district engineer for the highway administration.

The two warning lights -- to be placed several hundred yards apart in both directions from the adjacent schools -- should be installed by next fall, Concannon said.

The two projects will cost about $40,000, he said.

"We saw the on-site circulation problems," Concannon said. "We think it will benefit the school zone and bring attention to it. It should help."

Although parents pushed to lower the speed limit, it will not change, he said, because engineers believe that drivers feel comfortable driving at that speed.

Parents and administrators seemed pleased yesterday with the planned measures. They said the changes should alert motorists to buses and children, especially when combined with a flashing yellow light previously announced for installation at Carrs Mill Road, north of the schools, by late February.

"I can't imagine that flashing lights wouldn't make people more aware," said Nancy Esmond, principal of Bushy Park Elementary. "They will send a clear signal that people need to abide by the speed limit. Flashing lights are expected in school zones."

Esmond also was happy about the left-turn lanes, especially since buses and carloads of children often wait several minutes for breaks in the steady stream of morning traffic, which includes dump trucks.

Many of the safety problems, parents say, stem from too many cars on a road that was not designed to be the major thoroughfare it has become during the last decade of heavy growth in western Howard County.

Construction of the parking lot that will give the two schools a single pattern for traffic is expected to begin by late spring or early summer.

When that happens, school officials and traffic engineers will continue discussions about installing a traffic signal, said Sydney L. Cousin, associate superintendent for Howard County schools.

Two points of entry and egress now exist at the schools -- something that adds to the congestion, especially when buses are pulling in and out into heavy rush-hour traffic, engineers and parents say.

"We'll continue working with parents and the Howard Board of Education for long-term improvements," Concannon said.

Sauers, safety chairwoman of Glenwood Middle, and others also worry about speeding drivers who often travel 60 mph during off-peak hours.

And while Howard County police officials say they believe that the flashing lights and left-turn lanes should slow traffic, they will be setting up speed traps this month.

"People just aren't used to that speed near schools in this county," said Sgt. Pete D'Antuono, head of the county police traffic unit. "This will be our November project."

This year, police have caught a fairly low number of speeders on Route 97 during rush hour, D'Antuono said.

"We're going out there during the middle of the day, to see what happens," he said.

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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