To slow speeders, unite the community


Traffic Talk

February 27, 2005|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DO CARS and SUVs zoom by your home, threatening life and limb? Have you ever wondered how to get some traffic calming installed? Jill Balthis, who lives on a street that has speed humps, wants more of the same. But she wondered how to start.

"Does it really take the approval of the county executive to get a speed hump put in a road?" she asked. "There are many small children further down the street, and we still get people speeding by the houses. Is there anything that can be done since the humps are already on part of the road?"

If you are not a fan of traffic calming, don't get your axles in a tangle. "I'm not sure if we even have a budget yet for traffic calming, so this question may be moot," said JoAnn Maxfield of the Howard County Department of Public Works. However, she said that detailed information about the process and requirements is available at peed%5Fcontrol.htm.

But Mark DeLuca, chief of traffic engineering for Howard County, said that the Traffic Engineering Division regularly handles traffic-calming concerns. However, he cautioned that speed humps are not necessarily the first solution to slowing traffic. "Speed humps are only one of many options available to mitigate speed, but a careful evaluation of road conditions needs to be performed," he said.

If you want traffic calming in your neighborhood, be prepared to rally a community effort, according to DeLuca. "It is advisable to have the reader's community or homeowners association contact the Traffic Engineering Division, since we advocate working with community traffic committees," he said.

All alone

No light (or former) light steams up your radiators more than the last signal on Howard County's stretch of U.S. 29, at Rivers Edge Road on U.S. 29's southbound lanes only.

"Can you tell me, please, why one car turning northbound [out of Rivers Edge Road] can stop ALL the southbound traffic? Each time I get stopped there, I wonder what the plans are to eliminate this sole remaining light. I was hoping that all the work off Route 32 eastbound at Cedar Lane and Sanier Road would direct Rivers Edge to access onto Route 32, but that does not seem to be the case. What do you know?" Bill Miller asked.

I'm pretty sure you're not going to be happy. Dave Buck, media relations manager for the State Highway Administration's Office of Communications, said the "signal predates the current plan to remove intersections on U.S. 29." It was "warranted at the time and is still warranted .... for safety rather than volume [of traffic]."

There are no plans to remove it because it "has such little impact on [U.S.] 29," Buck said. He also noted that without the signal, residents would find it difficult to leave their Rivers Edge neighborhood at busy times of the day.

Unfortunately, those are the times when that signal causes the most traffic to back up on southbound U.S. 29.

But another traffic light in Howard County is raising eyebrows. And I don't think this will make you any happier than Mr. Miller.

"I would like to understand why the directional arrow in the traffic light at Route 99 and Marriottsville Road only works during nonrush hour times when it truly is not needed, and does not operate during rush hour when it is truly needed," said Jeff Gardner.

According to Dave Buck, the signal at Route 99 and Marriottsville Road operates in a "side-road split phase mode" during nonpeak hours. An evaluation of this intersection was conducted in 2001 and revealed that collision patterns and reported near-miss crashes involved left-turn movements from northbound and southbound Marriottsville Road onto Route 99.

The crashes were occurring during nonpeak hours when through traffic along Marriottsville Road would tend to bypass left-turning vehicles in a right-turn-only lane, Buck said. Such incidents were especially problematic for southbound motorists who were not expecting such a maneuver.

Buck noted that SHA eliminated the conflict from opposing traffic by modifying the operation of the signal to allow the northbound and southbound Marriottsville Road approaches to move independently. "The modification has made this intersection significantly safer over the past three to four years," he said.

Road extension

Mark Middlebusher wondered when the Stephens Road extension -- from the recently constructed traffic circle at Whiskey Bottom Road to Route 216 -- will open. "It seems like it's been several months that the road has been built. What's left?" he asked.

He reported that he spoke with Holly Robbins, an inspector with the Construction Inspection Division of the Department of Public Works. She informed him that the Stephens Road extension should be opened by May 1, assuming all the paperwork is filed correctly.

"Southern Howard County residents from the Emerson and North Laurel area will look forward to the opening," Mr. Middlebusher said.

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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