Members of the Darlington/Dublin Community Council eagerly shared their concerns Wednesday about traffic issues in their community, which includes continuing problems with tractor trailers on Main Street, with the commander of Maryland State Police troopers assigned to Harford County.
Lt. Matthew Kail, commander of the State Police Bel Air barrack, spent about 35 minutes talking with council members and listening to them during their Wednesday evening meeting at the Conowingo Visitors Center. He came at the invitation of council leaders.
Their concerns included a recent increase in tractor-trailer traffic in Darlington's Main Street business district and drivers who are not willing to stop when pedestrians are in crosswalks.
The recent increase in truck traffic, which most community leaders say is a result of the two-year increase in Susquehanna River bridge tolls, has become a major safety concern for those who live along Main Street in the village of Darlington, and a frequent topic at Community Council meetings.
Truck drivers have been seen heading through the downtown district as they use Route 161 (Main Street) to avoid paying tolls to cross the I-95 Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge or the Route 40 Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge, opting for the toll-free Conowingo Dam crossing via Route 1.
Route 161 intersects with Route 1, which drivers then take across the Conowingo Dam and continue north, or they use Route 161 to get back to I-95 when crossing the dam and heading south.
"It's an old village so the buildings are very close to the road, so they get the noise and the vibration pretty easily," Richard Norling, community council chairman, said.
Joni Nugent, another council member, said trucks have been seen speeding and crossing the center line of the narrow road.
She asked Kail about a special State Police unit that she had heard of whose members focus on enforcing traffic laws regarding commercial trucks, and Nugent suggested having them come to Darlington and catch some of the truck drivers.
"They say they can do phenomenal things," Nugent said of the unit. "If they could come and visit us it would make everybody happy."
Kail said he would look into having members of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division visit Darlington.
That division is a State Police unit responsible for enforcing state and federal laws for commercial hauling, as well as education and conducting safety inspections, according to the unit's web page.
"Two or three random times and suddenly they'll get the idea that this is not a safe route," Norling said.
Kail asked Nugent to provide him with information, "anything that can help us develop an enforcement strategy."
She said the trucks speed through at all times of the day.
The commander said he would also work to find methods to educate drivers about laws that require stopping when pedestrians are in a crosswalk.
"We'll try and focus our efforts up here and try and combat some of those problems that you're having," Kail said.
He also spoke about how state troopers work with county and municipal law enforcement agencies, as well as local businesses and fire and EMS companies, to conduct traffic, DUI and child safety seat enforcement efforts.
Local troopers also work with the State Highway Administration and Washington College in Chestertown to compile crime and traffic incident data, and then develop maps to use resources more efficiently to cut down the number of accidents.
"We try to do things cooperatively," Kail said. "We can't do it all on our own."
Norling said Kail had also been invited to the meeting to share crime data from the State Police side. Harford County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jack Meckley, commander of the sheriff's Northern Precinct, is a regular at community council meetings in the northern part of the county and also Darlington's meeting Wednesday.
Kail mentioned a few minor thefts that had taken place in the community in 2013, and said the majority of the issues troopers handle are traffic related.
"We were sort of interested in the whole picture," Norling said.
Kail has been commander of the Bel Air Barrack since early 2013.
He spent 11 years before he became barrack commander with a State Police "computer-related crime" unit tracking down those who used the Internet to commit crimes such as sex offenses against children and fraud.
"I am a resident of Harford County so I do have a vested interest in the county," he said.