Another nominee for worst place to drive

TRAFFIC TALK

September 07, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LET'S START with some unfinished business from some previous columns. Doug Dribben responded to Al Brodhurst's nomination of Exit 17 off U.S. 29 as the area's worst place to drive. This exit leads to Shaker Drive and Seneca Drive in Columbia.

But it is a different highway exit that overheats Mr. Dribben's radiators. "I must disagree with Al Brodhurst's nomination of Exit 17 off U.S. 29 as the worst place to drive in the area. Clearly, the new left exit off 29 north onto Interstate 70 west deserves that honor," he said. "Now, rather than simply backing up the right lane of 29 north, the State Highway Administration, in conjunction with the county (according to SHA), has decided that BOTH lanes of 29 north need to be severely congested during the evening rush hour as cars slow in the left lane to turn left. With the bridge over the eastbound lanes of I-70 constricted to two lanes, the turn lane for the new left-turn lane onto I-70 west is very short, meaning that the backup extends far south of it."

Mr. Dribben also disses native drivers. "And, we have Maryland drivers - who are clearly not the most competent - cutting across traffic heading south on 29 as they attempt to turn onto I-70 west, which is usually backed up, and now is increasingly congested as we have two lanes of traffic merging west rather than one," he said. "In all my years of driving, I have never seen an exit ramp that cuts across another major route. It will, unfortunately, take a traffic fatality to make the powers that be wake up and close the exit. Until then, anyone driving north on 29 during the evening rush hour will agree that it is the worst place in the local area to drive."

I use that exit frequently, although rarely during rush hour. But the few times I have, I've not seen the backups. If this is a daily backup because of the exit, then it is a hazardous situation that needs to be addressed. But I still prefer using that exit over the right-hand one, because the entry onto I-70 is so much safer than curling around the cloverleaf.

The Bay Bridge

Several columns ago, Bob Valerius complained about unnecessary Bay Bridge backups, caused, he said, by drivers too clueless to be behind the wheel. His complaints honked Dottie Girard's horn because she, too, has issues with certain clueless bridge crossers.

"I travel over the Bay Bridge many weekends all year long. Several months ago, I was driving alone, but following my family in another car. All of a sudden, a long piece of aluminum, the length of the windshield, flew up and blocked my view, missing the glass by 1 1/2 inches. I felt like I was in the movie `Twister'," she said.

"When I reached the other side, I stopped behind the patrol cars and told [the officers] what happened. One patrol drove back over the bridge and was able to retrieve the piece and then gave me a claim report number." Ms. Girard learned that the fine for having unstable loads, assuming the culprit is found, is only $45.

Then, Ms. Girard's e-mail shouted, "IT SHOULD BE MANDATORY ON THE BAY BRIDGE TO COVER YOUR VEHICLE!"

And I agree. But not just on the Bay Bridge. Everywhere. Loose loads are accidents waiting to happen. A friend recently encountered flying debris from a pickup truck in front of him and had to dangerously swerve off the road to avoid hitting it or another vehicle. My husband and I also encountered a pickup truck at the beginning of summer that was steadily depositing its load of weeds, brush and branches along Interstate 895. I wonder if the driver was surprised, when he arrived at his destination, at how light his load was? But back to the bridge and Ms. Girard: "I also hit a long pipe one Friday and it fell into the bay. Someone in a fishing boat could have been killed," she said. "[Several Friday's ago] when we drove east over the old bridge, I counted 13 articles on the bridge, not counting pieces of blown tires."

Blind-spot redux

In the first week of August, this column mentioned drivers' blind spots. That drew an e-mail from Roger Windsor. "In your article today, you mentioned blind spots and drivers failing to turn around to check traffic in this blind spot before changing lanes," he reminded me recently. "How true! With all of the modern modifications to motor vehicles (including those infernal blinding headlights on some new autos, trucks and SUVs) what is the story on rear-view mirrors and blind spots? Failure to properly address this simple matter in auto design by the automakers over the years has perhaps caused more accidents than the many accidents which have been avoided by other design modifications."

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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