SHA is coming to the rescue on tough stretch of U.S. 29


April 30, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LAST WEEK, Jim Maguire of Pikesville nominated U.S. 29, between U.S. 40 and Route 100, as one of Howard County's driving disasters. "There is so much traffic merging in such a short stretch of highway," Maguire says. The State Highway Administration has already noted that congestion, and is coming to the rescue.

An additional travel lane will be added in the median area on each side - thus both directions of U.S. 29 will have new left-hand lanes.

In addition, SHA is widening to two lanes the flyover ramp from U.S. 29 south to Route 100 east. And the ramp from Route 100 east to U.S. 29 south is being widened to two lanes.

The project includes moving the U.S. 29 north to Interstate 70 west ramp to give motorists along northbound U.S. 29 two options for accessing I-70 west - from the current right-hand exit or from the new left-hand exit.

Lora Rakowski, spokeswoman for SHA, warns that single-lane closures may occur in daytime nonpeak hours; double-lane closures may occur during the night and result in periodic detours at night. Motorists can expect lane shifts as well.

Before you get too excited Mr. Maguire, you need to know that the project will last through summer 2003, so you will have to put up with the congestion, lane closings and inconvenience until then.

"This project is going to go a long way to alleviate congestion for motorists traveling U.S. 29 in the vicinity of Route 100 and I-70," Rakowski says.

Ramp closing

Bob Leedom of Glenwood has noted an additional aspect of the Interstate 95 bridge redecking project I reported in last week's column.

"It's not listed on the Maryland information sites you mentioned, but there's a new sign on the ramp from Route 32 east to I 95 north saying that the ramp will be closed on April 29," he says.

Leedom wonders whether the closure is for April 29 only and whether a reasonable detour is being planned. Some of you already know the answer to that one, but for those of you who do not drive this ramp everyday, here is an update.

Motorists traveling Route 32 east to I-95 north will be directed to go past the ramp for I 95 north to U.S. 1 north, then back onto Route 32 west to reach I-95 north.

"We're looking at seven to eight weeks for the detour, around the clock," reports Rakowski. "Any detour can be a frustrating experience - especially during rush-hour periods. We appreciate the patience and cooperation of motorists."

Driver's dreams

Here's some wishful thinking on the part of Columbia's Don Oliver, who notes that some smokers still throw lit cigarette butts out of their car windows. "I wish there was a simple way to stop it, but I'm sure if there was it would be in use already," he says.

No buts about it, smokers who litter really burn me up, too. Last week, a car idled in front of my home while the driver made a cell phone call (give her points for not driving while distracted). I was amazed to see the driver throw out her cigarette butt.

According to Keep America Beautiful, while cigarette butts might be much smaller and less visible on the ground than other types of litter, they have a significant negative impact on our environment. Cigarette butts are the most frequently littered item there is, with smokers discarding about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts each year. That's an awful lot of ugly.

And don't think they will biodegrade - that is a rationalization littering smokers make to soothe their consciences. While the outside paper wrapping may (or may not, according to some studies) decompose in between one and 12 years, the filters themselves are made of a type of acetate that does not completely break down. If you doubt my word, then litter a few of your cigarette butts in your yards, and take note of how long it takes for them to completely disappear (blowing away does not count). I hope I'm still writing this column when your cigarette butts disintegrate.

Are drivers who think the world is their ashtray clueless about the drought? Even with April's rain, the cigarette butts could cause wildfires. The risk will only increase as the summer's heat and drought cause most lawns and grass along roadways to go dormant.

Littering with cigarette butts is inconsiderate at best. It's also dangerous and illegal - you are littering, after all. Show some consideration for the rest of the world, and keep your butts to yourselves. There is a reason cars come with ashtrays. If it's good enough for your mouth, it's good enough for your ashtray.

What's your driving dilemma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at 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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