Long battle for a roundabout

County wants condemnation of land near Dayton intersection where a man died in 2000

June 28, 2006|By LARRY CARSON | LARRY CARSON,SUN REPORTER

For Wayne Moore, the nearly six-year fight to get Howard County to build a traffic roundabout at the slightly crooked intersection of Highland and Triadelphia Mill roads in Dayton has been excruciating.

Moore, of Clarksville, said his father-in-law, William Rubin, was killed and his mother-in-law, Rena, seriously injured there July 4, 2000. The Rubins had stopped at the intersection and were hit by a truck, which smashed their car into a telephone pole after they had ventured forward into the crossroad.

"I can't give up on this," Moore said of the push for a new traffic configuration at the intersection, which has logged 18 accidents, including the death of Mr. Rubin, since 2000. "My wife has kept a wreath on that pole for five years."

The county has been unable to persuade two landowners to sell slivers of property needed for the $705,000 roundabout project. Now, Department of Public Works officials are asking the County Council to approve condemnation for the remaining land they need for the roundabout.

"The community supports a roundabout," said James M. Irvin, county public works director. Condemnation bills are due to be introduced in the council July 3.

Stop signs are on Triadelphia Mill Road at the intersection, but not on Highland Road, and many accidents occur like the Rubins' or one in early 1998 in which a pickup truck hit an ambulance that had stopped and was moving forward.

County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a western county Republican who represents the area, agreed that something must be done, though he hopes it will not be court condemnation.

"I have never voted for condemnation, and I hope I don't have to," Feaga said. Still, he said, "it's absolutely a must to do something with the traffic there. We have to save some lives."

Irvin said talks have gone nowhere with Robert T. Bradford, who has lived on 5 acres in the southwest quadrant of Highland and Triadelphia Mill since 1975, and Marty Anthony Howard, who owns a landscaping business on the northeast corner. Howard has submitted plans to develop his land with 10 homes.

"I think they are willing, but we can't agree on a price," Irvin said.

Bradford, 82, a retired auto-dealership owner, said he is indeed willing, though he thinks a four-way stop sign would be a better option.

"They might need a roundabout, but for $40 they could put four stop signs there," Bradford said.

Irvin, however, said that option has been studied but will not work.

"We think it's unsafe to do that," Irvin said, adding that the intersection does not meet federal standards for four-way stop signs. Slight rises obscure motorists' side vision, and the intersection is a bit crooked.

Bradford, whose brick rancher sits atop a knoll facing Highland Road, said he is not against losing the 0.182 acres in a narrow strip along the road, if he can get a few things in return.

"You are hurting my property [value] by putting in that roundabout," he said. "What I want them to do is improve my driveway, and my fence is 32 years old and rotten and needs to be replaced." He would also like the county to renovate a small pond at the rear of his land, he said.

Bradford said he has received estimates that the work would cost more than $50,000. The county has offered him $16,000, he said, and he is hoping that it might revise the figure upward. He is hopeful that a meeting tomorrow with county officials will resolve the issues.

Howard, who stands to lose 0.237 acres of what is now a grassy hill piled with firewood, did not respond to several efforts to contact him about the issue.

Moore said he cannot believe that two people can hold up an improvement that he feels is vital for public safety.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "There will be another accident before this is done."

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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