Tangle along Ridge Road tests skills and patience

TRAFFIC TALK

August 27, 2002|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

OVER THE past month or two, I've received more nominations for additions to the list of Howard County's worst places to drive. U.S. 40 figures prominently on this list.

According to David Towle of Ellicott City, the exit from northbound U.S. 29 to Ridge Road is "made worse by those who seem to position themselves in the middle of the road and wait to turn onto Ridge Road toward U.S. 40. Therefore, those that might want to turn right onto Ridge Road from the exit must wait and add to the backup. Granted, it's narrow and there is no marking for two lanes, but a little common sense would help."

"You asked for our traffic traumas? Mine is the intersection of Ridge Road/North Ridge Road and Baltimore National Pike [U.S. 40]," said Craig Woods, who is a rural mail carrier out of Ellicott City. He said he goes through that intersection daily. "I can't count the number of times I've seen near misses (and was actually involved with a minor fender-brushing) coming from Ridge Road toward U.S. 40."

For those who are not familiar with that intersection, Ridge Road at that point is set up with three lanes. The right lane is "right turn only" and is not a problem. The center and the left lanes are the source of the mix-ups. The left lane is "left turn only," while the center lane allows drivers to turn left or continue straight ahead. Complicating things are the exits for U.S. 29, just beyond the intersection. The exit for northbound U.S. 29 is on the right, and the exit for southbound U.S. 29 is on the left.

"Two problems seem to crop up on a regular basis," Wilson noted. "Either the motorist in the left lane will want to go straight [on U.S. 40] or want to go north on U.S. 29, crowding anyone wanting to turn left from the center lane."

Wilson suggests possible solutions to the traffic problems at the intersection. "Solution One would be to make the center lane straight only, thereby eliminating the `cutoffs' by those wishing to go north on 29. Solution Two would be to designate the left lane as `U.S. 29 South' and the center as `U.S. 29 North.' This would again eliminate cutoffs by letting drivers know where they need to be as they approach the intersection."

He hopes that one of these solutions can be used to reduce the number of fender-benders and near misses at the intersection.

Several readers, including Ellicott City's David Keelan, have complained about the exit ramp from westbound U.S. 40 to U.S. 29. The exit ramp is on the left-hand side just beyond the traffic light at Ridge Road.

"During morning rush hour, traffic moves very slowly through this intersection because of the traffic light. As a result, traffic backs up onto U.S. 40 - sometimes to Rodgers Avenue," he said. "I am continually astounded by drivers traveling west on U.S. 40 who refuse to get in line behind this line of traffic. Many of these drivers swoop into the exit ramp for southbound U.S. 29 from the right lanes on U.S. 40 at the very last possible moment, cutting off the drivers who are in line to take this exit ramp. These drivers must be familiar with this traffic pattern as it is part of their daily commute to work, yet they continue to pull this stunt daily, rather than fall in line with other traffic."

Brenda K. Saucedo of Catonsville also has complaints about that exit ramp, as well as the rest of her daily commute to work between her home in Catonsville and Bendix Road, off Route 108.

"At the light at Ridge Road and Route 40 across from Superfresh Store, the lane to exit onto U.S. 29 south is not long enough to hold the traffic needing to exit. There is always a backup there and cars cutting in front of you trying to squeeze in," she said. "There is also confusion regarding whether that lane exits to U.S. 29 South or to Ridge Road." She notes that many accidents occur there.

"After that, it is very treacherous when I finally do exit from U.S. 40 west onto U.S. 29 south, first because the left lane ends (the sign is too far down the road advising drivers of this lane ending) and second because traffic from Interstate 70 dumps onto U.S. 29 South trying to get to Route 100. This ... traffic dumps in on the far right lane and in a very short span tries to cross all the way over four lanes of traffic to exit to Route 100," she said. "You have cars criss-crossing and braking everywhere - an accident waiting to happen. Not a very fun trip to work in the early a.m."

The good news is that the Maryland State Highway Administration is in the process of adding lanes to accommodate all this maneuvering. But it's going to take a while for this work to be completed, so hang in there and drive carefully meanwhile!

Don't leave pets in cars

It still happens. We leave the pets we supposedly love in hot cars on days when temperatures exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit, forgetting that it takes only a couple of minutes for the interior of a car to reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

In May, I mistakenly provided telephone numbers for the Howard County Animal Welfare Society's spay/neuter clinic. Lynn Neser, field supervisor of the Howard County Police Animal Control Division, has asked that I share the correct telephone numbers to call if you see pets left in hot cars. "Our officers will respond to any reports of animals in cars that appear to be in distress," she said.

If you see an animal left in a sweltering car, or for any domestic animal complaints, call Howard County Animal Control at 410-313-2780 during business hours or 410-313-2929 after business hours. Write these down on a slip of paper and stick it in your wallet or purse. It could save a beloved pet's life!

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison@us.net or send faxes to 410-715-2816. Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044.

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