Tough places to drive, and driver error, too


October 26, 2004|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

AMONG YOUR least favorite highways in Howard County are two of its busiest: U.S. 40 and Route 100. Here is what you had to say about them, in response to my request for your nominations for the worst places to drive.

"How about the ongoing problem of both arrows being green at the same time," said Darry Parker. "The U-turn/Left onto Ridge Road, north (at Super Fresh and Wal-Mart) and the right turn from Ridge Road north onto U.S. 40 West. Both have the right of way (green arrow)."

People get very upset with each other at that place. I read about it a few years ago. That was true two years ago when you read in this space that a reader had submitted a complaint about it. Harsh words and grueling "stare-downs" are a constant occurrence there.

The State Highway Administration says both arrows are not green at the same time, although people do make right turns from Ridge Road onto U.S. 40 westbound when drivers turning left from eastbound U.S. 40 have the green signal.

L. Lloyd Lagera blames driver error for the problems at the two left-turn lanes on U.S. 40 westbound going into St. Johns Lane southbound in Ellicott City. "At least once a month, a driver in the right hand, left-turn lane who proceeds to make a U-turn onto 40 eastbound, cutting right into the [path of] vehicles in the left hand, left-turn lane proceeding onto St. Johns Lane. A vehicle literally cut across my bow with the driver just waving casually as I hit my horn. Is there anything that can be done to prevent an accident from happening? Enforcement? Better signs? [The same thing happens] at the intersection of 40 and Ridge Road," he said.

But most of your comments focused on the exit for U.S. 29 from westbound U.S. 40. Again, the problem is driver error. "Impatient or aggressive drivers refuse to wait their turn in the left-hand lane," complained John Crooks. "It is very frustrating to see these drivers fly by us in the right lane and then conveniently signal or "poach" their way over in the left lane by the traffic light. This also creates a longer wait time for those honest drivers who stay in the left lane to exit ... not to mention the increased risk of an accident."

Donald Forgione agrees with Mr. Crooks, but said the problem flows in both directions at that junction. "One of my most frequent problem locations is U.S. 40 at U.S. 29. Many, many people exiting U.S. 29 both north and southbound do not yield to traffic, but simply roll right out onto U.S. 40 regardless of oncoming traffic.

U.S. 29 is the tie that binds Howard County together, and is the link between the U.S. 40 and the other problem highway, Route 100.

"The worst road in my opinion is the Route 100 west merge onto U.S. 29 south," Kristina Nordby said. "This is a left entrance to U.S. 29 and people coming in the left lane do not want to slow down to let anyone in. [Recently] I had some knucklehead pull into the left lane as I was ready to merge over from the entrance lane and I had nowhere else to go."

There's that driver "error" again. But Route 100 has another problem area, according to Ms. Nordby. "The off ramp of 100 west at westbound Meadowridge, where those coming off Route 100 do not know what yield means."

Unfortunately, no matter how well an engineer designs a road, you can't compensate for driver error, or in some cases, a complete unwillingness to abide by the accepted rules of the road.

Carol Regan also has complaints about Route 100. "My vote for the worst intersection is the on ramp from Executive Park Drive onto Route 100 west. The driver must come out from a underpass, watch for oncoming traffic from Route 100 turning into where you are coming out," she said.

"You then proceed to your on ramp -- into the FAST lane of Route 100. To get to the Long Gate exit ramp, you must cross three lanes of traffic -- all going 55 mph or better! If you continue to U.S. 29 south, you again enter U.S. 29 in the fast lane! Whose bright idea was it to have those two ramps enter roads into the FAST lane? Terrible!"

Eileen Dubrov has the same concern. "Trying to merge onto 100 west from Executive Park Drive (left to right) is a nightmare in and of itself. Add to that the immediate need (within about 1/8 of a mile) to move left to right across three more lanes to exit at Long Gate [Parkway] causes many to find an alternate route (particularly during rush hour).

"This is the most stressful experience I've encountered in the Howard County area."

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, 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. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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