Port Deposit tanker crash

The crew from Paul Davis Restoration - Chesapeake, in Bel Air, shaves a beam and shores up a piling before the disabled propane tanker that crashed in Port Deposit last week is pulled free of a Tome's Landing community condo building. (Photo courtesy of Chris Bruneau, Homestead Publishing / August 21, 2012)

Large trucks racing down Port Deposit's steep streets is nothing new, those familiar with the town said Wednesday.

After the hazardous tanker accidents on Aug. 14 and Aug. 24, the second was fatal, residents and town officials say they are even more committed to making the accidents stop.

A propane tanker crashed into the Tome's Landing condo complex Aug. 14, prompting the evacuation of some downtown residents. That was followed 10 days later by a gasoline truck that crashed and exploded, killing its driver.

The town will try stricter enforcement of its restriction on any trucks over five tons, a rule that was only put into effect about three months ago, David Buck, of the State Highway Administration, said Wednesday.

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Multiple signs reminding drivers of the restrictions will be placed at all three roads into Port Deposit, including in the town itself, Buck said.

SHA will also work with the two major mapping companies that feed to GPS devices in an attempt to avoid directing drivers through Port Deposit, he said.

Buck said the drivers in both of the recent tanker incidents did not intend to be in the town.

"In both of those instances, we have confirmed that both of the trucks were lost," he said.

Asked about the possibility that the drivers were intending to evade the I-95 tolls, Buck said the SHA is not focusing on why the trucks were there, but is trying to prevent them from being directed that way by mapping systems.

After that, he noted, "it's driver responsibility and accountability that goes into it, too."

Buck said SHA will also look into any other possibilities, such as flashing lights, that could be erected, but those would not happen any time soon.

Truck traffic has been a topic of concern in the area surrounding Port Deposit as well.

Darlington-area residents have long complained about trucks cutting through the neighborhood to bypass tolls.

In 2009, a traffic study by the Maryland Transportation Authority showed an increase in truck traffic through the Darlington and Dublin areas.

Residents suspected the cause there was signs advertising Routes 136 and 161 as detours from I-95, as well as ongoing construction on Hatem Bridge that began in spring 2008.

Traffic counts measured before a recent toll increase on I-95 – which drivers pay on the northbound side – were compared with counts after the toll increase.

The study showed daily northbound traffic volume along I-95 remains unchanged, but heavy-truck volume decreased by about 0.4 percent. Southbound heavy-truck traffic decreased by 3.2 percent.

Heavy-truck traffic on Route 1 increased from 0.3 to 0.7 percent, a change some area residents attribute to drivers trying to avoid paying the toll on I-95.

Port Deposit's deputy mayor, Kevin Morton, feels commercial trucks cutting through town is "a very serious issue because it's a matter of public safety."

He's not sure why this continues to be a problem, but has heard everything from the truck's GPS rerouting, drivers becoming lost and avoiding tolls or weigh stations.