Where are those workers? Waiting for road base to dry


March 02, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WE'VE ALL driven by road construction projects on lovely days and wondered, where are the workers? That's what Pat Dunlap wondered two weeks ago when he drove past the construction at Sanner Road in Clarksville.

In late 2002, Sanner Road was closed to all but local traffic to replace a bridge that spanned a tributary to the Middle Patuxent River. The bridge is about 1,500 feet south of where Sanner Road intersects Pindell School Road.

I heard from Mr. Dunlap last week about the project. "Road closed. Detour. What an inconvenience, right? Back in 2002 the original project completion date was November 2003, then it was changed to December `weather permitting,' " he complained.

"Well, this past Thursday was a nice weather day and 58 degrees, so I took a drive past the project at about 1 p.m. There was not a single worker at the site!" he said. He learned through the county's Web site that the bridge will reopen next month and the entire project will be completed in July. Again the phrase "weather permitting" was prominent. "Even with my poor eyesight, the bridge looks complete to me right now," he said.

I forwarded Mr. Dunlap's message to the county, and quickly heard from Jay Steinmetz, manager for the Sanner Road project. He confirmed that the bridge is complete except for some minor work. "However, the approaches at each end of the bridge have not been paved. The contractor was within one day of paving when the first snowstorm hit us, and since then the base has been wet and frozen," he said. "What is needed is about two weeks of warm, dry weather to thaw and then dry the sub-base. If paving is placed on the wet base, settlement will occur and there will be a noticeable bump at each approach. This is not good for either the cars or the bridge."

Steinmetz also said that the contractor has been on site whenever he can get productive work done; but, there is nothing he can do now that would not need to be redone later.

"As soon as conditions are favorable, the paving will take place, hopefully in late March or early April; and the bridge will be opened to traffic," Steinmetz said. "This will eliminate the detour of Sanner Road."

Another area of Howard County is also drawing unwelcome attention. "The corner of Woodstock Road and Route 99 is treacherous," said Lenore Turner in a recent e-mail. "The sight distance has always been short, but with the increased traffic from new developments in the area, the odds have really improved that an accident will occur. I am much more anxious now than I was a year or two ago when I turn from Woodstock onto 99."

According to Dave Buck, communications manager for the State Highway Administration, this intersection has become more of an issue in the past year as a result of additional development on Route 99. "Citizens have expressed concern that the earth embankment in the northeast corner of the intersection impedes sight distance and that this condition may contribute to potential collisions," he said.

SHA is working with Howard County to identify possible remedies, Buck said.

But don't get your hopes up in this era of financial drought. "We will be working with Howard County to pursue joint participation in the cost of the improvement," Buck said. "[But] at this point, no money is programmed for the project."

And finally, an intersection in Columbia is becoming more of a hassle to navigate. "I have a concern about the newly opened Wal-Mart, at Dobbin Center," said Charles Dematatis in an e-mail. "I tried to go to another business in the [shopping] center, and it took three light sequences from [Route] 175, onto Dobbin, to get into Dobbin Center."

He is worried already about what a holiday season will do to this already busy area, where a number of shopping centers are clustered. "I am concerned that the roads are not designed to handle the extra traffic. Are there any solutions being considered?" he asked.

"We are currently evaluating traffic patterns and volumes at Dobbin Road and Dobbin Center Way," said Mark DeLuca, chief of the traffic division, Howard County Department of Public Works.

"Over the last few weeks, congestion seems to have worsened at lunchtime and on weekends. Recently, we increased green time for the left-turn signal into the shopping center. However, if traffic volume remains high, green time alone will not alleviate the congestion," he said.

Officials will continue to focus on the area to solve the problem. Meanwhile, DeLuca recommended, "We encourage drivers to use the second shopping center entrance near the Blockbuster video store as an alternative during busy periods."

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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