When `fixes' still haunt us


November 11, 2003|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

EVEN ROADS that have had their problems "fixed" sometimes come back to haunt us, and such is the case with U.S. 29. Frustrated motorists have always complained about portions of this highway, and Randy Bieganski joins this joyful bunch.

"What in the world is going on with the increase in traffic volume heading west on Route 99 from U.S. 29 during evening rush hour?" he asked in a recent e-mail, noting that the heavier volume starts with the completed construction of the second on ramp to [Interstate] 70 west.

"I use the analogy of a funnel on top of a bottle. You can increase the size of the funnel to allow more liquid to be poured into it but if the bottle remains the same size, more liquid ends up staying in the funnel or spilling over the sides. The state added a second ramp to I-70 west, but I-70 was not widened and remains only two lanes west of U.S. 29. Of course, the interstate cannot accept the increased volume.

"Apparently, drivers seeing traffic backed up on west bound I-70 and the on-ramps feel compelled to continue north the short distance to Route 99 west, which roughly runs parallel to 70, in the hopes of getting the jump on the backed up traffic. There is a stop light at the `T' intersection of 29 and 99, which of course will back up traffic even further. The peril begins at the exit ramp from I-70 to 29 N. as drivers try to merge left to make a left turn at the light. Some other drivers already on 29 are attempting to merge right to make a right turn at the light."

"Route 99, of course, is a two lane rural road. There is construction [where] 99 is being widened at Mt. Hebron Drive. There are two additional stoplights in the stretch from 29 to Bethany Lane. As you might imagine, there is a solid line of cars inching along the entire stretch as the traffic lights cause additional delays. It has taken 20 minutes or longer to traverse this two miles. Of course, by that time you can look to your left and see traffic on I-70 westbound zooming by at freeway speeds. After Bethany Lane, there are no further stop lights until Marriottsville Road so, of course, drivers attempt to make up for lost time by zooming down Route 99. People living in these subdivisions face perilous conditions as they attempt to access 99. Many intersections are on curves or hills with limited sight distances. Mt. Hebron High School is also in this stretch with many teen-age drivers also utilizing this stretch. It will only be a matter of time before there is a serious accident," he warned.

Mr. Bieganski offers some advice to the impatient drivers who are bypassing I-70, thinking Route 99 west is a short cut. "You couldn't be more mistaken, you will begin by sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic jam which will take you much longer than if you were to ride out the backup on 70. For safety sake, you are best to leave Route 99 to the local traffic needing it to access their subdivisions."

And Judy Rooney poses another question many have asked, but few seem able to answer, including the Maryland Transportation Authority, which has not responded to several queries and calls.

"Why is it that if I were to drive from Maine to Florida on Interstate 95, I would only have to pay tolls in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland? Once you are out of one of the Baltimore tunnels headed south, there are no more tolls. If other states can maintain their interstate highway system without tolls, why can't we? Don't federal taxes support the interstate system? Do we give up our right to receive federal funds because we collect tolls? Or are we effectively taxing our citizens twice?" she asked in a recent e-mail.

She also calls the toll in Delaware on I-95 "a joke," noting that "it's in the middle of nowhere and ties up weekend traffic for miles" and that the Maryland tolls are "no better."

"And it's not just `out of staters' that are getting taken," she added. "My family headed north for a memorial service recently and never made it because we were stuck on I-95 for a 10-mile backup due to tolls. And now the powers that be want to make the tolls even higher. That just adds insult to injury! Pay more to be stuck in traffic. If it costs more to transport goods through Maryland, then we will all pay for it with increased prices on food, clothing and other items."

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison@us.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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