Drivers aren't singing the praises of roads on Howard's `Hit Parade'

TRAFFIC TALK

October 12, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THERE IS no shortage of dangerous roads and intersections in Howard County.

Last week, I asked for nominations for your most dreaded places to drive. Much of your e-mail focused on five roads: Route 32, U.S. 1, U.S. 40, Route 108 and U.S. 29.

Tom Farrow suggested that what I was seeking was nominations for a literal "Hit Parade":

"I vote for the Shaker Driver merger to Route 32 west as number one on your Hit Parade," he wrote. "After you battle the traffic getting off Route 32 west onto Shaker Drive, you have to merge onto the same lane that Route 32 west is using to merge onto U.S. 29 north. If you are lucky, someone is not merging from the left lane of Route 32 west into your lane to get into the U.S. 29 south ramp." Worse, he noted, these lanes are often congested.

Jeff Gardner - my new favorite reader - suggested southbound Route 32 at the Interstate 70 exit ramp for the most dreaded place to drive:

"Folks coming off that ramp believe they have the right-of-way onto Route 32. They have no idea what that yield sign means at the end of that ramp," he said.

And why is he my favorite? He added, "Enjoy your column, wish it appeared more often."

What really grinds Brian McAllister's gears is a continuation of the theme of Route 32. On northbound Route 32, past the Route 144 intersection, there is a brief area where multiple lanes allow cars to align themselves for entrance onto either I-70 east or west, each of which is shortly after the light at Route 144. Once past the left-turn lane for westbound I-70, the lane continues to allow drivers to turn left onto Livestock Road (Willow Springs Golf Course), but then abruptly ends with a merge into the through lane, he noted.

"Drivers coming off of westbound I-70 going toward Carroll [and there are plenty of them] are in a right lane that ends just after the light at Route 99. So they are trying to get over to the left, merging into ongoing traffic and watching for vehicles that are merging from a disappearing left lane. After that maneuver, you have to dodge cars that are turning left onto the park-and-ride lot and finally, as cars slow down to a crawl, you have to watch out for those drivers coming off of I-70 who refuse to slow down and refuse to get over and barrel through the light at Route 99 in the right lane and force their way into the one remaining lane just before the turf farm on Route 32."

But wait - there's more. "This maneuver is sometimes further complicated by drivers who make a right-hand turn from Route 99 thinking that they can merge into the traffic going north on Route 32. All the while some drivers refuse to let other vehicles merge, often straddling lanes to keep others from continuing up Route 32," he noted. "I have seen some accidents and some near misses that make you have nightmares. Once I saw a driver trying to block an ongoing dump truck."

Which is extremely dumb, considering that the Law of Tonnage - he who drives the heaviest vehicle wins - is stacked against that driver.

Not on Route 32, but just as terrifying, according to James Hsu, is Old Annapolis Road, between Columbia Road and Centennial Lane. "I think [this is] the most dangerous road to drive on in Howard County," he said. "Closer to Columbia Road, there is this one high-speed sharp downhill/uphill turn!"

He said he sees cars cross the double yellow line all the time, despite warning speed signs about the turn. Winter's slippery conditions make matters worse, but he offers the county a suggestion: "We should add flexible poles between the lanes so that drivers never cross the double yellow lines - that is sooo dangerous."

Kristen Neville nominated the exit ramp from Route 100 west to Snowden River Parkway:

"The ramp leading down to the traffic circle backs up so much at rush hour, partly because of the traffic light at Snowden River and Waterloo Road, that frequently I'm left sitting at a stop in the exit lane with cars traveling past me in the right lane of Route 100 at who knows what speed," she wrote. "Call me paranoid, but I'm always nervous that someone, perhaps talking on a cell phone or futzing with something on the seat, will drift too far to the right and sideswipe all of us sitting still there at the top of the ramp."

Next week: More of your dreaded places to drive.

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 get a response.

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