The fast lane to high anxiety: county's `worst places to drive'


April 09, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DO YOU have a "worst place to drive" in Howard County - a stretch of road or intersection that you dread driving through? I've heard of some from your fellow readers and could name a half dozen others from my experience. U.S. 1 - all of it - comes to mind.

So does the Route 32 west exit ramp to enter Interstate 95 south. It's a left-lane entrance, but cars often creep down the ramp at appallingly slow speeds, even when traffic zooms by at or above posted speed limits (which is 65 mph on that stretch of I-95). Use that entrance ramp to accelerate. That's why it's there.

There's another issue with that entrance ramp: discourteous drivers. If you're traveling on that stretch of Interstate 95 and a truck merges off that entrance ramp, give the trucker a chance to move over - they generally do. Too often, impatient drivers pass on the right to get around the trucks, effectively preventing them from getting over to the right where they belong. It's not only unfair to the truckers, but it's dangerous to everyone.

Ron Black of Ellicott City shares his concerns about what he calls "the Golden Triangle intersection." "There's a blood pressure-raising intersection that needs some attention. I think the reason it hasn't been improved is because it's so difficult to name. It's the U.S. 29 northbound to U.S. 40 exit that runs alongside the new Merchants Tire building and to the stop sign at the Harper's Appliance store. It might be called something to do with Ridge Road.

"Here's what's happening there: Traffic backs up from the light at U.S. 40 past this intersection heading in the direction of the Super Fresh and Wal-Mart, so no one can turn left toward U.S. 40 until the light turns green and the traffic moves ahead. Then, for a brief period, traffic can turn left to get in line to cross U.S. 40 at the next green light opportunity. This is a really bad intersection from this standpoint. But even worse, if a driver wants to turn right at this stop sign, not left, he can't, because of the left turning traffic not being able to move."

Marcy Kolodrubetz's worst place is on Route 108 in Clarksville: "There is so much cross traffic going through Clarksville now, getting through the lights around Route 108 and 32 and the shopping center is crazy. Specifically, it can sometimes take over 10 to 15 minutes to get through the light at the intersection of Ten Oaks Road and Route 108, both in the morning and evening rush hours.

"Ten Oaks Road gets loaded up with all the cross-county traffic off Brighton Dam Road, as well as people like me who live in the area and just need to get out. Now I hear that there may be another service station going in on that corner.

"Also, I recently read about ongoing one-lane closures at the intersection for paving? Does the county have any idea how horrible that intersection is already? Are there any plans for improving movement through the intersections other than closing lanes to make us more miserable?"

I checked this out with Lora Rakowski, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration. She says the SHA recently completed an evaluation of traffic along Route 108 and "found that operating conditions throughout the corridor and at the immediate intersection can be dramatically improved by altering the existing signal system phasing and timing sequences.

"It is estimated that this improvement would create a reduction in peak hour delay as much as 65 percent and traffic backups along Ten Oaks Road on average by 75 percent. The plan is in design, and it is hoped that the changes will be implemented by fall."

Rakowski also notes that though another gas station will occupy the northwest corner of that intersection, the developer is expected to widen Ten Oaks Road to provide a free-flowing right turn lane to southbound Route 108 and a widening of Route 108 to provide a deceleration lane southbound leading to a new "channelized" right in/out access along Route 108. The lane will be designed to deter left turns from northbound Route 108 and from the site onto southbound 108.

What "worst place" makes your Top 10 list? I'll forward your nominations to the appropriate county and state officials. This is your chance to make them aware of the intersections and roads that deserve their scrutiny. With luck, they will take your road concerns seriously.

Contact Jody K. Vilschick at with your worst place in Howard County. Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044, or fax 410-715-2816.

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