Driver in the dark about flashing signal

January 01, 2008

THE PROBLEM -- A flashing yellow light on Greenspring Avenue near Brooklandville seems to work erratically.

THE BACKSTORY -- About six months ago, Baltimore County crews installed a flashing yellow light at Greenspring Avenue and Woodvalley Drive, just north of the Baltimore Beltway.

Ira Geller was happy. "I thought the signal was there to warn northbound drivers that vehicles were exiting Woodvalley onto Greenspring Avenue," she wrote to Watchdog.

"The light would be necessary because the Greenspring Avenue hill blocks oncoming motorists' view of Woodvalley Drive," she wrote. "A driver would have to brake quickly because the hill blocks everyone's sight of anything occurring at that intersection."

But Geller said the light seems to blink randomly.

"On my daily trip home the signal sometimes flashes when there are no other motorists at that intersection," she wrote. "Other times it doesn't flash and there is activity at the intersection. The signal randomly operates and never gives a true warning for safety, only a false alarm."

David Fidler, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, said engineers investigated the signal Thursday and found it to be working fine. In fact, the spokesman said, it is not supposed to blink all of the time.

"It is operating as intended," Fidler said, noting the complaint "is a matter of misinterpretation. It is a very complicated signal system."

Woodvalley Drive crosses Greenspring Avenue on the crest of a hill. Motorists heading north on Greenspring can't see cars coming south until they both are at the intersection at the top of the hill. That makes it dangerous for motorists on Greenspring turning left onto Woodvalley.

So the county put in a flashing yellow signal. Three cameras monitor traffic approaching the intersection and automatically activate the flashing light when a car on Greenspring has been stationary at the intersection for three or more seconds.

The idea is that if the northbound driver can clear the intersection in less than three seconds, "there is no reason for the southbound driver to slow down," Fidler said.

Watchdog will follow up with a look at the number of accidents, if any, at that intersection before and after this warning system was installed.

WHO DEALS WITH THIS ISSUE -- Darrell Wiles, head of the Baltimore County Bureau of Traffic Engineering, 410-887-3554.

UPDATE

A link on the Baltimore Department of Transportation's Web site to provide motorists with a list of parking violations and corresponding fines should be online this week, according to Adrienne Barnes, the agency spokeswoman.

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