A bumper crop of `worst places' nominees

TRAFFIC TALK

February 25, 2003|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I'VE ASKED readers to identify the worst places to drive in Maryland, and they haven't been shy about suggesting candidates.

Some places made today's column because they seem to attract clueless or reckless drivers, others because of consistent congestion, and some because of hills, twists and turns or poor visibility.

A number of e-mails suggest entire stretches of highway, such as "I-95 from here to New Jersey," from Erick Lander of Columbia, or "the whole Baltimore Beltway, especially at the Wilkens Avenue exit," from Marian Arminger of Arbutus.

Jennifer Smerk of Germantown nominates part of Interstate 270. "A horrible spot is on I-270 heading south where the Montgomery Village exit pours out onto I-270," she said. "There is a microscopic merging lane, which forces drivers to play `Frogger' with aggressive drivers who are already on I-270. This `game' happens every day, and it is a notorious area of slow and clogged commuting during the a.m. rush hour."

But let's get back to Howard County. Tom Grimes e-mailed that "the most dangerous intersection in Howard County would be the intersection of Route 144 and Route 97. If you are heading south on Route 97, it is extremely dangerous to make a left turn onto Route 144, either in the morning or afternoon rush hours."

It was inevitable that some part of U.S. 40 would be nominated for this list, so it was no surprise to hear from Roger Marshall, who also recalled another dangerous area that has since been improved.

"Try driving west on U.S. 40 from Rogers Avenue and figure out how to go south on U.S. 29. What a nightmare of markings and lanes. It's a wonder someone hasn't been killed there. Death seems to be what it takes to get changes made. I learned that when one of my students was killed during Christmas break. That was a long, long time ago, and I still remember the young man. The location of the accident was what was then Route 108 where it intersected with U.S. 29."

Amber Slavotinek nominates the "seven hills" stretch of College Avenue in Ellicott City as one of the area's dangerous places, "mostly because of kids seeking thrills by hill hopping." A native of Elkridge, she recalls her high school days, when she and her friends would go there for these dangerous thrills.

Finally, Priscilla Mckerracher supported Ken Johnston's comments in last week's column about the dangers of the Vollmerhausen Road-Guilford Road intersection.

"I agree with Mr. Johnston. The left turn from Vollmerhausen onto Guilford is dangerous!" she said. "If you navigate it the way Mr. Johnston suggested (swivel your head, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, see a break, pull out fast), you can get through it. But new drivers, who may not be familiar with the intersection and may not know that cars speed very fast down Guilford, may pull out too slowly. That is what happened to me when driving it with my 17-year-old daughter. The only reason that the intersection functions is that most drivers are experienced with that turn, so have learned to navigate it. But I bet many of them hold their breaths while doing so!"

Keep sending in your "worst places to drive" nominations. I'll publish the rest next week.

Snow kudos

Based on the efforts to clear our neighborhood, I have to give Howard County a thumbs-up for its snow-removal efforts. The main streets in our neighborhood were plowed at least once Saturday and again Sunday during the height of the storm. By Tuesday morning, the courts and cul de sacs in my neighborhood were also plowed. Friends in Montgomery County in a similar neighborhood were still waiting to be plowed out Thursday.

Usually I dig at drivers of sport utility vehicles (and I still wonder why SUVs that don't have four-wheel drive exist), but this snowstorm proved the value of owning a sturdy SUV. A big thank you to all the SUV drivers who pitched in to drive hospital personnel and perform other needed driving services during the snowstorm.

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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