State balks at Arundel turn-light change

BGE, plant's neighbors seek improved safety at accident-ridden spot

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 county complex, state highway officials said they doubt they will upgrade the traffic signal at Fort Smallwood Road and Energy Parkway.

Local legislators and 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 start of the year.

Currently, there is a blinking red left-turn arrow for vehicles heading into the Brandon Shores plant from Fort Smallwood Road.

The request for a new light was largely aimed at making the intersection safer for trucks carrying anhydrous ammonia - a hazardous industrial chemical - which are scheduled to begin using the intersection daily, starting 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. He 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.

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 the traffic 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 doesn't merit an exclusive turn signal.

"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."

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