Signals planned for safety at Howard interchange

December 17, 2008|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,michael.dresser@baltsun.com

The State Highway Administration said yesterday that it would install new signals at U.S. 29 to control traffic entering westbound Interstate 70 in Howard County, seeking to improve safety at an interchange that was the scene of a recent fatal crash.

The highway agency said it would put up new signals on both directions of U.S. 29 where it meets I-70 in an unusual interchange configuration that allows northbound travelers to get on the westbound interstate from either a right-hand ramp or via a left-hand turn across southbound 29.

The interchange was the site of a crash July 19 in which Andrew Noel, 19, was killed when the driver of a passenger vehicle made a left turn toward the interstate in front of Noel's southbound motorcycle. Noel's mother and others circulated a petition calling on the highway agency to close the left-hand entrance onto I-70, contending that the interchange design contributed to the fatality.

The state says the second entrance is necessary to maintain traffic flow and to prevent backups on U.S. 29, but it agreed to study other changes. In the interim, the state installed rumble strips and a stop sign.

The long-term solution the state and Howard County adopted is to install a left-turn signal for motorists entering I-70 from the left lane of northbound 29, along with a stoplight to control southbound traffic. SHA spokesman Dave Buck said the signals would be equipped with traffic detectors on the left-hand ramp to prevent backups in the turn lane.

"It's an intelligent system that will react to the traffic," Buck said.

In addition, officials will install flashing yellow beacons on 29 south of Route 99 warning motorists of the crossing ahead. The state will also install "signal ahead' signs on northbound 29.

Officials said the $114,000 project should be complete in March.

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