Concerns about shoveling snowy sidewalks accumulate

TRAFFIC TALK

December 23, 2003|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THERE'S more sidewalk talk today. Last week's column on snow-covered sidewalks caused a flurry of responses, including a call from Howard County Executive James N. Robey's office.

According to Herman Charity, a spokesman for Robey, county police do try to enforce the county's 48-hour snow removal regulation. "The police usually begin by requesting in person that they comply. If they don't, they will actually issue a citation," he said.

And regarding the uncleared county sidewalks discussed last week? "We will be contacting the director of Public Works to discuss why these sidewalks have not been cleared," Charity said. Two areas of concern included in last week's column were the Interstate 70 overpass on St. Johns Lane and the Route 32 overpass on Great Star Drive, which, according to Glenn Johnson, director of transportation for Howard County public schools, routinely remain uncleared after snowfall.

Cathy Melvin is concerned about those sidewalks, too. "You mentioned the bridge over 70 on St. Johns Lane ... that has always been a sore subject with me. I have a daughter at Mount Hebron [High School], so I travel that road many times and I just cringe when I see that dirty snow piled high on that sidewalk and I know that those kids have to walk in the road. Last winter the snow was there for weeks. I wonder who is responsible for that bridge," she said.

There's some question about who is responsible for clearing those sidewalks. According to Bill Malone, director of the Bureau of Highways for Howard County, "This I-70 overpass and almost all other bridges on county roads over state highways are owned by the state. I have spoken to the state and they intend to continue to clear those overpasses."

But the State Highway Administration hasn't been and doesn't intend to. Said David Buck, media relations manager for SHA's Office of Communications: "We don't do sidewalk clearing, period." He also said that although SHA inspects the bridges over state-maintained roads, "we are not responsible for clearing those sidewalks."

While the state and the county figure out just who is going to clear those sidewalks so kids can walk to school, we'll just hope the white stuff stays away. Good thing winter break starts tomorrow.

Now for what you said about clearing sidewalks:

Carolyn Drye wonders about the fairness of requiring residents to clear their own sidewalks of snow. "I am interested in children's safety as much as the next one, but when it comes to fairness, I think the county should handle that one just as they do the plowing. How fair is it that a private citizen is liable for a public conveyance? Anything used by the public should be the responsibility of the government of that public," she said.

Next week: What happens when a snow plow showers you with snow. Meanwhile, enjoy your holidays and stay safe.

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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