A possible solution emerges for persistent road problem

TRAFFIC TALK

Rumble strips could help drivers distinguish lanes when lines are not visible

April 15, 2003|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ROAD MARKINGS are always problematic. Finding the best way to keep them visible, even in rainy weather and at night, has stymied traffic engineers everywhere.

Cecily Wood proposes, in a detailed e-mail, what she called a "win-win" solution for the problem of drivers' inability to see center and lane lines, even with freshly applied or painted lines, in wet weather. "As soon as the lines fade (six months or less), even in good weather you have a hard time seeing them," she said. "And this is probably one of the most complained-about highway safety factors." It's certainly one of the complaints I hear most often. Traffic Talk columns in January discussed the problem.

One point of those columns was that wet weather, especially at night, makes the lines all but invisible, although the heat-applied taped lines are slightly more visible because the line is at a slightly different height than the pavement. Reflectors are great, but expensive. And they are often removed by snowplows during winter.

"Another point was how great the small rumble strip stripes at the edge of the pavement are because you can see, hear and feel them. ... Even unpainted, they are visible through everything except mud and snow," she said.

Ms. Wood suggests combining rumble strips with the painted center and lane lines, noting that rumble strips have been used at the highway edges for years in Michigan and other snowy states, and there hasn't been much degradation from plowing. "Paint the lines as always, and then run over the lines by gouging or hammering (I don't know how they do it). Painting afterwards probably wouldn't be as effective since it would tend to fill in the gouges. Then you have lines that can be seen, heard and felt," she said. "In addition, you can also `tune' the lines so that it should be readily apparent, again by sight, or hearing or feel, what type of line you are dealing with."

It seems fairly complicated at first, but it at second glance it makes sense. Because the center lines are by far the most important, she believes, they should be closer to the edge strips in the amount of vibration they generate, and the most insistent in rhythm. "Perhaps an endless series something like this: " lllllllllllll

For the lane markings, a somewhat less insistent rhythm: ll ll ll ll ll ll ll ll

"No doubt it would take some research to find the best patterns - more for the eye-catching part than the sound and feel," she said.

Road work

With the warmer weather, you can expect more construction and road work around Howard County. "Yes, warm weather does bring construction, as well as road striping, tree trimming, sidewalk repairs and paving," said JoAnn Maxfield of Howard County Public Works customer service.

On U.S. 1 northbound at Guilford Road, lanes will be closed through Friday during the day for road work. Lane closures are also planned this week for Route 175 as it turns into Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia.

Construction of a roundabout to improve traffic around the intersection of Folly Quarter Road, Sheppard Lane and Homewood Road in the western area of Ellicott City will begin May 5, weather permitting. During construction, the approach to the intersection on Folly Quarter Road from Route 144 will be closed. The other three approaches to the intersection will remain open. Detour signs will be posted along Carroll Mill Road, Triadelphia Road and Folly Quarter Road to warn of the closing of the Folly Quarter Road section from Route 144. Completion of the project is slated for August.

Bicyclists

Here is a gentle reminder that bicyclists are people too and have as much (legal) right to ride on Howard County's highways and byways as drivers of other vehicles. Please respect these cyclists by giving them the right of way where appropriate and being cautious around them and for them.

Cyclists, please remember that you also should abide by the rules of the road. Ride on the right side of the road and, of course, stop at red lights and stop signs instead of skirting right through the intersection - I see the latter too often, even by "serious" cyclists outfitted with riding outfits and water bottles on sleek bicycles.

Parents, keep in mind that Maryland law requires all bicyclists under the age of 16, and Howard County law requires bicyclists younger than 17, to wear bicycle helmets when riding on roads (not that your children should be riding in the roads anyway), trails and sidewalks.

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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