Harford councilman calls for roundabout at Route 23 and Grafton Shop

Almost a year to the day of the last fatal accident at the intersection of Route 23 and Grafton Shop Road in Forest Hill, a Harford County Council member said state highway officials should consider installing a roundabout there.

Councilman Chad Shrodes said Wednesday he has sent a letter to Maryland Secretary of Transportation James Smith recommending that the State Highway Administration build a roundabout at the intersection, which has been the scene of numerous accidents.

Speaking during the monthly meeting of the Jarrettsville/Norrisville Community Council, Shrodes said he hopes the State Highway Administration will consider studying the traffic at the intersection and then providing funding for design and construction of the roundabout.

The intersection has been a major traffic hazard for years, Shrodes said, referring to a three-vehicle accident on Feb. 21, 2013, that claimed a fourth life at that location in the last 10 years.

After the 2013 fatal accident, which involved three vehicles and injured three other people, an SHA official said previous traffic studies did not support erecting a traffic signal at the intersection.

Police at the time said the 2013 accident was caused by the driver of a pickup truck traveling north on Grafton Shop failing to yield the right of way at the stop sign and pulling into traffic on Route 23. The pickup struck the side of an SUV towing a horse trailer, with two horses inside, that was traveling east. A fuel oil truck following the SUV and horse trailer was unable to avoid hitting the other two vehicles.

The driver of the pickup told police he couldn't see the oncoming traffic because the sun was in his eyes. The 58-year-old Churchville woman driving the SUV died, and one of the horses was later euthanized because of its injuries.

There are stop signs for vehicles on Grafton Shop. The speed limit on Route 23 is 55 mph. Despite the frequency of accidents, SHA officials have said sight lines for motorists on Grafton Shop are adequate to see oncoming traffic in both directions.

A 79-year old woman was killed at the intersection on July 27, 2012, when police say she failed to yield to oncoming traffic on Route 23. The same happened in September 2003 when a 26-year-old woman and her 6-year-old son were killed when she pulled out from the stop sign and their vehicle was struck broadside by one approaching on Route 23.

"I know some folks don't really like [roundabouts], but they make you think and they make you slow down," Shrodes said.

Richard Russell, a community council member, said Route 23 is one of the straightest roads in Harford County, making it easy for drivers to get up to speeds well past the posted 55 mph limit.

Shrodes said he also forwarded copies of his letter to SHA officials and Harford County Council President Billy Boniface.

According to Shrodes, the county council has already approved a permanent traffic safety advisory board to study all of the roads and intersections around the county. He said the county has a lot of hills and curves, so the board will meet monthly to discuss the traffic issues around the county.

The council first established a temporary year-long task force, chaired by the sheriff, in 2012, following an increase in traffic accidents around the county. In the task force's end-of-the-year report, it recommended the council form a permanent advisory board to continue to address traffic issues in the county, Shrodes said.

There is a roundabout along Route 23 at Commerce Road, about two miles east of Grafton Shop.

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