Bypass, nearby intersection safer alternatives than dangerous turn from Route 99

Traffic talk

October 23, 2005|By JODY K. VILSCHICK

In the past I have heard many complaints about many roads in Howard County. The chief complaint generators are Route 32, U.S. 40 and roundabouts wherever they are located. But based on the number of comments and questions received over the past few weeks, I believe Route 99 may nudge aside these roads to take its place as Howard County's worst.

Joseph Schroen probably agrees with that assessment. Although he does not live on Route 99, he lives just off it, on Melba Road in Ellicott City.

"When people are coming up [U.S.] 29 and make that left-hand turn onto 99, and then some of us have to make that immediate left onto Melba -- it's deadly," he said.

The turn for Melba Road is about 300 feet from the intersection of Route 99 and U.S. 29.

"My grandmother, who has lived here for 30 years, is afraid of turning there ... for fear of getting rear-ended," he said. Since he moved here two years ago, he notes that he, too, has experienced a number of near-misses.

"Our turn onto Melba Road is too close to the turn onto Route 99 from 29. Rush hour in the afternoon is one of the worst times to make a left-hand turn onto Melba Road," he said. "What can Howard County do to make our turn and our lives safer?"

According to State Highway Administration spokesman Dave Buck, SHA constructed a bypass lane along westbound Route 99 at this location in 2000 at the request of the community. The bypass lane improved traffic operations. "We have not heard complaints about operations at the intersection since that time," he noted.

Buck also said that SHA is not aware of any operational problems along Route 99 at Melba Road. "SHA has no future plans to construct any further improvements, such as left-turn or right-turn lanes, because of limited right of way," he said.

"Motorists concerned about turning at the Melba Road intersection should consider proceeding west on Route 99 to the Maple Rock Road intersection to enter the community utilizing the separate left-turn lanes at that location," Buck said.

Nature impediment

Phil Marcus responded to last week's column, which mentioned drivers entering Broken Land Parkway from Route 32 failing to yield to drivers already on Broken Land Parkway.

Marcus believes that the problems at this merge are made worse by the landscape. He noted, "The sight line to southbound Broken Land [Parkway] is impaired by a `hill' of standing tall grass, which may encourage the foolhardy to just take their chances."

But just as dangerous is the exit from Broken Land Parkway onto Route 32 westbound, and "someone is going to get broadsided or run off into the bushes," he predicted.

To enter the ramp leading to westbound Route 32, northbound parkway drivers must turn left (at a traffic signal) onto the exit; southbound parkway drivers exit without a light, but must yield to drivers making the left turn into the exit.

"It is actually more a game of chicken, as the southbound drivers frequently ignore the yield sign since they already have a head of steam," Marcus said.

Scenic routes

It is human nature to complain more than we compliment. But there must be some roads that we positively look forward to driving. My personal pick is New Cut Road between Route 103 and old Ellicott City. Driving along the stream in the middle of summer is like driving in a cathedral of trees.

Jonie Lehmann's favorite road is Oakland Mills Road between Sohap Lane and Tamar Drive, which she describes as a "narrow two-lane [road] with trees overhanging, no visible houses," although she added, "It will be a shame if it is ruined with the development of that parcel of land into a park."

Greg Preston takes a more utilitarian approach. "It's wide, it's gently curved, and always on weekends it's wide open and smooth sailing all the way to where I want to go. It's convenience can't be beat," he raved about his fave: Route 100.

What are your favorite highways and byways in Howard County?

What is your driving dilemma? 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. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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