The Board of County Commissioners moved forward in an effort to solve the traffic woes at the intersection of Md. 27 and Gillis Falls Road/Harrisville Road, just north of the Mount Airy town limits.
The commissioners unanimously approved the allocation of $100,000 to the State Highway Administration for a temporary solution, while also putting $300,000 toward SHA’s long-term project that would provide a permanent solution to what Sheriff Jim DeWees and residents called a dangerous intersection.
“I know there are troublesome intersections. Englar Road [in Westminster] is one of them. I could go on, from [Md.] 482 to Gorsuch [in Hampstead] and every part of the county that there are troublesome intersections. This is a dangerous intersection. It’s a highly dangerous intersection. I know it well, and I avoid it,” DeWees said.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, and DeWees met with residents, Maryland State Police and SHA about the intersection in July. During the meeting, participants brainstormed ideas to address the intersection until SHA is able to complete its long-term project, realigning the intersection so that Harrisville and Gillis Falls roads line up while also expanding Md. 27 to include left turn lanes as well as converting the flashing light signal into a traffic signal.
One of the ideas that came up at that meeting was converting the flashing light signal into a full traffic signal prior to the other changes. That idea was initially dismissed after John Concannon, a district engineer with SHA, said at the meeting that the road wouldn’t lend itself to traditional left turns because the Gillis Falls does not meet Harrisville Road.
But Concannon told the Times Thursday that after the meeting SHA internally discussed whether putting up a full traffic light would be feasible at the intersection. The main concern is the operation of the light and how much of a delay it would cause to traffic.
The equipment is there, but there is still a cost of around $100,000, he said. Even though the commissioners have now allocated that money, SHA still has to do an analysis of the light, looking at the impact on traffic and potential safety concerns. The analysis will take about 60 days, Concannon said.
And even if SHA says the light can be changed, it won’t happen overnight. SHA would have to go through a design phase for the new light and the light will have to be fit in with projects that are already planned, Concannon said. He said he is not sure what the time frame would be for the light but said he hoped that would also be determined within 60 days.
Putting money toward the light would be seen as a positive, said the county’s engineering bureau chief, Deborah Butler. But Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, questioned if they should do a temporary fix.
“What I don’t want to do is give someone a false sense of safety because it may be the best thing to do is accelerate the permanent fix and tell people to stay out of that intersection,” Howard said.
Howard also questioned if putting in the temporary fix would cause SHA to consider the intersection less of a priority. In order to combat that possibility, the commissioners said a memorandum of understanding would have to be issued with the $400,000, indicating that they cannot use the $300,000 for a different project, they said.
Concannon said he’ll be taking the $300,000 offer to the SHA leadership. The long-term project needs some $3 million to be completed, $2.5 million of which is for construction, Concannon said.
The project is in the design phase and SHA is currently working on it, Concannon said. In giving SHA the $300,000 the county would show they are serious about the project, Rothschild said.