Residents turn angry over trucks

Howard neighborhood upset about drivers blocking turn lane

April 25, 2001|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

Hemmed in by the maximum-security Patuxent Institution, the Maryland House of Correction, an industrial park and the Wholesale Food Center, tiny Sharewood Acres has always felt shut off from the rest of Howard County.

But there are times when the neighborhood is more isolated than usual.

Several times a day, residents say, large trucks park in the middle turn lane of Route 175 while drivers run across the street to pick up a sandwich or a six-pack at two stores with parking lots too small for trucks. The trucks prevent residents from making left turns at the intersection of Sharewood Drive and Route 175, which links the neighborhood to the rest of Howard.

It's an infuriating problem, residents say, partly because it magnifies the seclusion of the 39 small, 1950s-era Cape Cod houses clustered along Sharewood Drive.

"They park there for no more than 10 or 15 minutes, but if you're trying to get out, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference," said Marvin M. Bladen, who has lived on Sharewood Drive since 1957. "It's frustrating. They think nothing of it. They think they should be able to stop there, put their blinkers on and take their time."

The problem could be seen late one morning last week, when a car carrier westbound on Route 175 pulled to a stop in the left-turn lane in the middle of the busy road. The driver jumped out and crossed over to Scherer's Market as other trucks edged past. Ten minutes later, he reappeared and drove off.

"Obviously, it's not a place for them to park," said county Councilman C. Vernon Gray, an east Columbia Democrat who has received complaints. "It's a safety hazard, to say nothing of the residents not being able to get out of their road."

The problem has existed for several years, residents say, but until now, they have had little luck bringing it to anyone's attention.

State police at the nearby barracks on U.S. 1 have told residents that Route 175 - Waterloo Road in the area - is the responsibility of Howard County police.

At a recent community meeting at Deep Run Elementary School, county police Maj. Jeff Spaulding told residents it is difficult for the county to patrol the area because it is on the dividing line between the department's northern and southern districts and is far from both headquarters.

"It's like we don't exist," a resident mumbled under her breath.

Spaulding promised that the police will do what they can, saying he was "dumbfounded" that "tractor-trailers were parking in the middle of a major highway."

Resident Theresa Suite said police are acting on their pledge, telling the owners of Mel's Liquors and Scherer's Market to discourage their suppliers and customers from parking in the middle of the road and ticketing those who do.

Police have told residents that the tickets will help to prevent middle-of-the-road parking only by local drivers who get word of the crackdown. Curbing the practice among the many transient drivers in the area will be more difficult.

Residents say the trucks have caused at least one accident, when a driver turning from Sharewood Drive tried to squeeze around a truck stopped on Route 175.

Kim Sharpmack said she often drives the long way, to the other end of Sharewood Drive, and loops back up to Route 175 on Dorsey Run Road.

Sharpmack said she likes Sharewood Acres because yards are slightly bigger than those elsewhere in Howard. But her neighborhood's plight hits home, she said, when she goes to community meetings in Jessup, just across the line in Anne Arundel County.

"If we go there to voice complaints, they say, `You're Howard County,'" she said. "But Howard County's eventually just going to make this industrial anyway, so they just don't care."

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