Watchdog: A dozen stop signs vanish in Nottingham

Disappearance less nefarious than feared

May 01, 2010

The problem: At least a dozen stop signs have disappeared from Nottingham street corners.

The back story: Victor Pikla has had enough time to notice the stop signs in his Nottingham community. He has lived in the neighborhood since it was built half a century ago.

And that's why he was worried when he noticed after February's snowstorms that the signs had disappeared from 12 intersections in neighborhoods north and south of Ebenezer Road, such as Vale Drive and Carlisle Avenue, Kendi and Tammy roads, and Parlo Road and Dearborn Drive.

Pikla said he contacted Baltimore County police, and an officer said that this wasn't the work of vandals — that the signs had been removed. The resident said he also called the county Bureau of Highways, but no one there could answer his question.

"They blow you off," he said.

He couldn't imagine what prompted the signs to be eliminated. "I don't know why you would remove signs that have been here for 50 years," Pikla said. "They don't cost any more."

So, Pikla called Watchdog to get the scoop.

It turns out that the signs were not stolen but removed by Baltimore County's Public Works Department, said spokesman David Fidler.

All the intersections named by Pikla are "T" intersections where a minor street meets a larger roadway, the spokesman said. Under a state traffic law enacted about 1980, stop signs have not been installed at intersections such as these, and county workers have been gradually removing signs posted before that law was enacted as part of routine maintenance.

Someone recently discovered one sign in the neighborhood, and since February, workers have been taking out the area's remaining T-intersection stop signs, Fidler said.

The absence or removal of these signs at similar intersections has not caused safety problems in the past two decades, Fidler said.

Often drivers don't obey stop signs at older, minor intersections such as this — instead treating the signs like de facto "yield" signs, he said. And according to state law, that's the correct behavior. Motorists on the non-through streets are required to yield the right of way to any approaching traffic, Fidler said.

The county must pay to inspect and maintain the 105,000 signs in its care, so it saves money by removing unnecessary ones, he said. "The volume of signs has crept up as development increases," he said.

Pikla said the signs help slow traffic near these intersections, helping residents like him exit driveways nearby. There are also lots of children and teenagers traveling to nearby schools.

County traffic officials can make exceptions where necessary, Fidler said. And neighbors can also apply to have traffic calming devices installed in their communities.

Who can fix this: Darrell Wiles, chief of traffic engineering and transportation planning, Baltimore County Department of Public Works, 410-887-3554.

— Liz F. Kay

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