County driving perils: more best of the worst

Traffic Talk

March 04, 2003|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

You keep e-mailing them, and I'll keep publishing them. As promised, here are the rest of the worst places to drive in and around Howard County.

Nikki Thomas of Columbia nominates Columbia Crossing Circle and Dobbin Road for this dubious honor. "Try turning left on Dobbin Road from Columbia Crossing Circle by the entrance/exit near Farmers & Mechanics Bank," she said. "Now they have built Columbia Crossing II across the street, and it's even worse. [It's even worse] when it's a Saturday afternoon and everyone is doing their shopping ... and don't let it be the holidays ... you'd miss Christmas dinner waiting at that intersection!"

She also suggests adding Route 100 west near the Long Gate Parkway and U.S. 29 junctions to the list. "Try to go through there at evening rush hour. They are trying to do construction to make that area better. I just think it was poor planning ... there just isn't enough space to have two highways and a shopping center all intersecting together," Thomas said.

Sadly, what was supposed to be a solution to congestion and traffic problems seems to be turning into a problem, or at least that's Anna Leonhardt's conclusion. She lives in Ellicott City and drives through this area regularly. "What possessed the State Highway Administration to add a left hand turn to westbound I-70 from northbound 29?" she asked.

"Now we have numerous motorists performing kamikaze-style maneuvers to cross the southbound lanes of U.S. 29 in front of oncoming traffic. I understand it may have been an attempt to relieve congestion on the cloverleaf on the northbound side, but we have now gone from the inconvenience of a wait to the danger of having cars dart across two lanes of southbound 29 to enter westbound I-70. That area is now very unsafe. I have had cars dart in front of me to make that left numerous times since it's opening only a few weeks ago."

A similar traffic configuration exists at Route 32 at I-70, which seems to have worked fine for many years, so I wonder why this new left-turn access to the ramp is causing so many problems.

Lisa Quinn of Ellicott City mentions "a couple dangerous and stressful areas" around Howard County, among them the dual roundabouts off Route 100 and Meadowridge Road, and the roundabout at Route 100 and Routes 108 and 104. "People are not sure if they should yield, stop or who actually has the right of way. People also seem to take them at dangerous speeds," she said.

Columbia's Loretta Ames concurs: "I now go around a great many circles. And, I know they are supposed to keep accidents from happening, but no one has taught the general public how to use them. And, I have found them to be rather dangerous sometimes, because the people coming into them don't know when they are suppose to go or when to hold off and wait until the oncoming traffic stops."

But that's not the fault of the circles, folks. Signs advise people to yield to traffic already in the circle. The problem is that some drivers either can't, or won't, read those signs. The SHA offers a nice overview of roundabouts and the traffic rules pertaining to them, including pedestrian and bike use, at its Web site. Go to www. sha.state.md.us/Safety/oots/Roundabouts/ index.asp to see this online brochure.

Ames also nominates the intersection of New Cut Road at Route 103. A frequent user of the dog park that opened just off of New Cut Road last summer, she's had a number of close calls.

"Since the dog park has opened, that intersection, on a work night during rush hour, is impossible to turn left onto 103 off of New Cut Road. I have found the only way you can go left is to turn right onto 103 and at the next street on the left. Turn left onto that street, turn around, and then turn right onto 103. I have waited as long as 10 minutes and have given up on the idea and turned right just to be able to go home," she said.

I was shocked not to have heard from anyone about U.S. 1, Route 32, Interstate 95 southbound or Broken Land Parkway. Of those, here are two worth mentioning.

All of U.S. 1 is bad, but especially the notorious "Dead Man's Curve" just north of Montgomery Road and Bonnie View Road in Elkridge in Howard County. A combination of aggressive drivers, hills limiting visibility, poorly designed intersections, seemingly untimed traffic lights, and lots of right- and left-turning traffic, not to mention the abundance of trucks, make this road hazardous to your health under the best conditions. Add rush hour and a touch of rain, or worse, snow, and all bets are off.

Route 32 west exit ramp to enter I-95 south. Despite dropping entering cars into the fast lane, incoming cars often creep down the ramp at appallingly slow speeds - even when traffic whizzes by at or above posted speed limits (which is 65 mph on I-95). Folks, use that entrance ramp to accelerate - that's why it's there! If you're traveling down I-95 at that section and a truck merges off that entrance ramp, give the truck driver a chance to get over. They usually do. But I've witnessed impatient drivers pass on the right to get around the trucks, effectively preventing the trucks from getting over to where they belong. It's not only not fair to the truckers; it's dangerous to everyone.

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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