Turning lane has one purpose


September 18, 2005|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A recent column noted Dale Atkinson's frustration with the middle lane on Benfield Road. Atkinson noted that starting at Severna Park High School and continuing toward Chartwell, there is a center turning lane on Benfield Road - but many use it as a passing lane.

Others share those frustrations. One of the suggested solutions was increased police presence and ticketing.

"I agree that the middle lane on Benfield Road is misused, but I've never been passed there," Jason Moore said.

"What frustrates me is people who use the middle turn lane as a merge lane. Although policing the road sounds like a good idea, it has about as much a chance as an officer pulling someone over for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign or signaling when changing lanes or turning," he said.

"Most people don't understand that the signals are to benefit the other drivers on the road, who aren't mind readers," Moore said.

Atkinson had suggested increasing signage stating "center lane for turning only." Moore noted that such signs already exist, although he conceded that "maybe they need to be a little more informative, such as `not a merge lane.'"

Finally, Moore said, "My dad always warned me not to be as good a driver as him, because it's just too frustrating."

Squeaky wheel

The squeaky wheel is the one that usually gets the grease. At least, that's what Bonnie Dorr, chairwoman of the community group OC-29, is hoping.

OC-29 was organized by Dorr and others in her community surrounding the U.S. 29 and Old Columbia Road intersection in Howard County because of the dangers that intersection presents. OC-29 met with community, county and state representatives Sept. 8 at Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Laurel.

There have been 57 recorded accidents at that intersection since 2001, usually because of drivers trying to make left turns. The State Highway Administration reported that some 49,000 vehicles a day traveled that section of U.S. 29; traffic projections expect that number to almost double in the next 20 years.

"Many of us have up-and-coming teen drivers, others have concern for the safety of even younger kids ... and others just want to get to work safely and efficiently," Dorr said.

"The dream solution would be an overpass," Dorr said. She noted that although some alternative solutions were discussed at a community meeting last week, these are mostly interim solutions.

But interim solutions may be all that's possible for a while.

"The community will need to work through Howard County to get a new interchange to be made a priority by the county," State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said.

"SHA builds projects based on an individual county's priority list. However, based on input from the community as well as comments from [the] meeting, SHA will be making some short-term safety enhancements as well as investigating other suggestions made at the meeting," Buck said.

But this is not a story merely of solutions, but of how community activism can possibly change our roads.

According to Bill England, co-chairman of OC-29, about a year ago the homeowners' association board in Reservoir Overlook learned that there didn't seem to be much official concern over the intersection. That's when Dorr got involved. She was the e-mail coordinator for the neighborhood.

"As e-mails began to circulate, [we] found there were a lot of homeowners who were extremely interested in this," he said at the meeting.

Dorr and England contacted other neighborhood associations, as well as the owner of Rocky Gorge Mini-Golf and Batting Cages, a business at the intersection, and invited them to meetings. Thus, OC-29 was created.

Dorr said OC-29 is truly a community effort. Some neighbors donated graphic design services for T-shirts and other materials, others arranged for meeting spaces and ensured access to sophisticated audio-visual equipment and still others volunteer in public relations, contacting local media and politicians.

Buck noted that activism can have a positive effect.

"Any time a community group is involved and has consensus on any improvement, it helps show unity and a cohesive message," he said. "While there are no guarantees just because a group has been formed, SHA is willing to sit down and listen to any person or group with a concern on a state road."

But the road has not been easy, Dorr said. "It has been a challenge for all of us, as we have full-time jobs and have been squeezing this all in between the cracks whenever we can, usually weekends and evenings," Dorr said.

"We have donated our time and funds toward the initiative because it is such an important issue for all of us," she said.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at Traffic Talk@comcast.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Anne Arundel County, 60 West St., Suite 400, Annapolis 21401. Please include your full name and contact information.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.