Traffic signal battle brewing

BGE, residents at odds with state over change for safety near plant

July 23, 2000|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

In a setback for those worried about trucks filled with a hazardous chemical turning into Baltimore Gas and Electric's north Anne Arundel County complex, state highway officials said they doubt they will upgrade the traffic signal at Fort Smallwood Road and Energy Parkway.

Local legislators, along with BGE, have pushed the State Highway Administration for months to install a turn-on-green-only left-turn signal at the entrance to BGE's Brandon Shores complex, the site of 10 accidents since the beginning of the year.

There is a blinking red left-turn arrow for vehicles heading into the plant from Fort Smallwood Road.

That feature was installed shortly after a crash at the intersection Jan. 10 in which an infant was killed after a school bus plowed into the side of his mother's turning car.

The request for a new light was largely aimed at making the intersection safer for trucks filled with anhydrous ammonia - a common but hazardous industrial chemical - that are scheduled to begin using the intersection daily in November as part of the power company's planned anti-pollution program.

Anhydrous ammonia is an essential component of the new system, which power plant officials say will reduce emissions at the coal-fueled plant by 90 percent.

"We just feel that under the circumstances, under the pending decision of BGE to transport anhydrous ammonia into their facility on a daily basis, we would be disappointed if they did not grant an exclusive left-turn lane," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno.

Jimeno said he and the rest of his delegation from Maryland's 31st District would continue their appeal to the State Highway Administration to change the light at the intersection.

"This is a win-win situation," Jimeno continued. "The community wants it, BGE wants it, it will not tie up traffic and it will just increase the safety and visibility at that intersection."

But Lawrence E. Elliott, assistant district engineer for the state Office of Traffic and Safety, said last week that BGE's plans to truck anhydrous ammonia into the complex on the Patapsco River would not influence his agency's decision on changing the light.

"You are comparing the volume making the turn vs. the amount of traffic they need to turn through," he said, adding that the ratio on Fort Smallwood and Energy Parkway did not merit an exclusive turn signal.

He said the State Highway Administration installs exclusive turn signals only where essential.

"When you put in an exclusive light when you really don't need it, the motorist doesn't sit there, they just go," Elliott said. "And now you have a totally unsafe situation."

Rose Kendig, a BGE spokeswoman, said the company would continue to push for the new light.

"We believe that it would provide a safer intersection," Kendig said.

"We know the community wants it, and we want it, so we will certainly lobby for it."

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