Route 99 is one tough road to drive

TRAFFIC TALK

July 13, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I AM NOMINATING Route 99 to my top 10 worst places to drive. In the past year, I have received the most complaints about various stretches along this crowded road.

Burton Eberlein has concerns about Route 99 where it intersects Maplewood Drive; Waverly Elementary School is nearby. "The big problem is the limited line of sight for Maplewood drivers [trying to enter Route 99]. It is complicated by shrubs and wood walls left and right at the top of Maplewood [on private property], a white stop bar too far away from the very top of Maplewood, sensors [that] do not work to give Maplewood drivers a green light and the timing of the signal itself," he said.

Compounding the problem, he noted, is that the traffic signal is fully operational briefly at the beginning and end of the school day. "Route 99 curves and drops off looking east and also west. These conditions limit our line of sight," he said. "I feel that the shrubs and walls should be removed. The signal should be fully operational during the heavy `go to work' traffic in the AM and also the `head for home traffic' in the PM."

Dave Buck, manager of communications for the State Highway Administration, explained the justification for the traffic signal at the intersection.

"The traffic signal along Route 99 at Maplewood Drive/Wetherburn Road was justified based on the traffic volume generated by Waverly Elementary School [on Wetherburn Road]," he said. The traffic signal was activated in April and because school is out, it is flashing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The traffic signal was only justified because of the vehicles generated by the school. Without the school, a traffic signal would not be justified due to the extremely low number of vehicles on Wetherburn Road and Maplewood Drive," Buck said. He noted that this case is unique because the side streets serve a school and a neighborhood, but that the justification for the signal was based on the volume of traffic generated by the school.

Buck did say that there has been a recommendation made to the SHA Office of Traffic and Safety that full-color operation of the traffic signal be revised to 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, throughout the school year. "This would go into effect late August/early September to coincide with the beginning of the school year," he said. "Based on a recent study of the intersection, we are proposing this modification, which should enhance the safety of the intersection during the school months."

SHA has also made arrangements to clear the bushes and shrubs just west of the intersection. Clearing the bushes and shrubs will occur within the next 10 days.

"These are located outside of our right of way but the property owner has given SHA permission [to do the work]," Buck said. "This will enhance intersection sight distance when entering MD 99 from Maplewood Drive. The wood walls are private property, but motorists are actually well clear of the wood walls as they view traffic before entering MD 99."

Motorcyclists

John Snyder called my column a "great venting place for cranky drivers." Then, after the flattery, he asked me to take on my least favorite thing in the world: motorcycles.

There's a reason for my bias: Motorcycles, in my view, are needlessly loud and annoying. They disturb pleasant afternoons spent quietly reading on the deck and they can wake little kids who've just gone to sleep. Why don't the mufflers on motorcycles work?

Mr. Snyder acknowledges that the noise can be "quite an annoyance to anyone but a motorcycle enthusiast." The key, he said, is to know what to listen for. "Bikers listen for the quality of an exhaust note the way a symphonygoer might enjoy a specific clarity coming from the brass section," he said.

He noted that he had never read anything about car drivers' interactions with bikers in the column. In the three years I've been writing this column, I've never received anything about interactions between motorcyclists and other motorists. My experience is that, aside from the noise factor, motorcyclists seem to be mostly responsible drivers.

I turn this topic over to you. What are your experiences with motorcycles? Motorcyclists, what do four-wheelers do to annoy you?

An update

Dave Buck provided an update on last week's column about road conditions on U.S. 40. "The pothole on the northwest corner of the U.S. 40/Chatham Road intersection caused by a Howard County-owned water line has been patched and the water line has been repaired," he said, noting that the contractor began paving last week -- so watch for possible road work in that area. At U.S. 40 at Route 144, also look for lane closures through the end of this week, also for paving.

And finally, be alert for continuing work and lane closures this week on Route 32 west from Guilford Road to Volmerhausen Road.

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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