WHILE COMMUTING on Route 32 is nightmarish, living on it can be even worse. Will Geckle must deal with Route 32 whenever he leaves his home.
"I read with interest your article today in the Baltimore Sun concerning Route 32 traffic congestion in Howard County between Interstate 70 and Route 26," he said in an e-mail.
"To leave our house, we must enter Route 32. During rush hour it can take 10 minutes to enter 32 and even then it requires a bit of luck. A family was nearly wiped out about a year ago when their van was totaled trying to enter 32 at about 6 p.m."
Rather than widening Route 32 (or perhaps in addition), he proposes another alternative: "We have asked Howard County and the State of Maryland to consider connecting the access roads that parallel much of Route 32 on the east side from Route 99 to Indian Hill Road, about 1.5 miles north," he said.
"Having an access road would be a wonderful, lifesaving relief to our Route 32 woes. Many of us who would use the access road could avoid 32 altogether, alleviating at least some of the congestion."
Mr. Geckle acknowledges he is not holding his breath for this solution to be put into place. "Meanwhile, we are grateful for those commuters who show some sympathy for the locals who live along Route 32 by allowing space and time for us to enter," he said.
Recently I heard from Columbia's Hal Cantor, who proposed another good place for a red-light camera.
"If you have any influence with the Howard County Highway Department, may I suggest that you recommend the installation of a left turn red-light camera at Little Patuxent Parkway and Broken Land Parkway (heading toward U.S. 29). I have seen as many as three cars turn left when the light is already green on Little Patuxent Parkway heading toward the library," he said in an e-mail.
Sorry, Mr. Cantor, I don't have any influence. But I did forward your comments to the folks at the Howard County Department of Public Works. You will be happy to hear what I found out.
According to Bill Malone, traffic engineering division chief, 25 red-light cameras are in operation in the county. The newest camera is where Mr. Cantor sees the problem, at Little Patuxent Parkway and Broken Land Parkway, which will pick up the left-turn violations from Little Patuxent Parkway to Broken Land Parkway.
"I watched an interesting thing happen at the `worst intersection in Howard County' the other day," said Ron Black of Ellicott City, who believes that the Ridge Road/U.S. 40 intersection qualifies for "worst intersection" designation.
"I was driving through the Harper's Appliance parking lot and noticed a Howard County police car close behind me as I drove through. Since driving through the lot to avoid a light just might be a ticketable offense, I pulled into a parking space on Harper's lot and parked," he explained in an e-mail.
"I expected the police to pull in beside me and have a little talk. However, the officer drove out onto U.S. 40 and turned right, avoiding the same intersection I had tried to escape! You'd think if this is happening, someone in charge would pay some attention to it."
I bet they are now. I would avoid trying that maneuver for a while.
Worst places to drive
Where do you hate to drive in Howard County or around the Baltimore-Washington area? Here are more of your picks.
Bob Savoy of Columbia has found two "worst places" in Howard County. His No. 1 pick is at Johns Hopkins Road and Pindell School Road. "Driving west on Johns Hopkins Road, there is a stop sign when you get to Pindell School Road," he explained.
"There are two problems: first, it is very, very difficult to see more than a few feet in either direction on Pindell School Road (so, the driver cannot easily see oncoming traffic); second, the traffic consistently exceeds the 30 mph speed limit, so that northbound traffic coming over the hill to the left of Johns Hopkins Road is on top of you before you know it." His second pick - Simpson Road and Hall Shop Road - offers a similar situation, with similar risks.
Frank Hutchinson of Ellicott City weighs in about a dangerous intersection he has encountered: "The signal at Route 99 and Bethany Lane/Old Mill Road in Ellicott City should have left turn signals for Route 99 traffic before someone gets T-boned. Left turning cars on Route 99 block the view of oncoming Route 99 traffic for the opposing left turning cars."
What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at email@example.com 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.