Speed humps proposed for Columbia's Thunder Hill Road

When Thunder Hill Road resident Mary Kline discovered in May her Honda Fit had been sideswiped while parked overnight on the street, her reaction was not that of a typical hit and run victim.

"It was incredibly frustrating, but it wasn't really a surprise," said Kline.

After all, a sideswiped car pales in comparison to the hit and run five years ago when Kline's English setter, Julia, was struck by a car after slipping out the front door. Julia survived, but was left with a heart murmur. Kline was left with a constant reminder that the road she lives on isn't safe.

"It was horrible, and what I think about now is what if It had been a child'," Kline said. "For us, our dogs are our kids. But obviously it would be so much worse to have that happen to a child."

It was that memory, years later, that spurred Kline and her husband, Keith, to become members of one of two citizen-run committees aimed at bringing traffic calming to Thunder Hill Road.

The separate committees, which were formed out of Howard County's Traffic Calming Program, are advocating for two projects that would bring nine speed humps to the road. The committee the Klines sit on is focused on bringing six humps, which would cost approximately $30,000, to the section of the road north of Route 175 and south of Old Annapolis Road.

A separate group is requesting $15,000 for traffic calming south of Route 175, asking for three humps between Oakland Mills Road and the Oakland Mills Village Center.

A speed hump, or speed table, is typically 3 inches high and can be up to 48 feet in length. The proposed humps for Thunder Hill Road will be 22 feet long with 6 foot entrance and exit ramps, leaving approximately 10 feet of flat surface.

According to Buck Bohmer, a project manager in the county's Department of Public Works, a citizen-requested project must first meet the requirements of a multiple-day traffic study, which accounts for volume and speed. Following the study, citizen committees are formed to work with Bohmer on a plan, which is presented to the community for a vote. A two-thirds majority is needed to pass before the plan is submitted to the county for funding. Bohmer said there is $200,000 available for traffic improvements in the 2014 FY budget, and it is divided out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

A July 2012 study on the southern portion of the road revealed approximately 11,803 vehicles use that portion daily, which is more than 5,000 more than similar roads. According to the study, the average speed on the 25 MPH road was 32.9 MPH, with the top 85 percent of vehicles averaging 36.5 MPH.

A March 2012 study on the northern portion of the road showed that approximately 2,793 vehicles use the road daily, which is approximately 700 more than similar roads. The average speed was 31 MPH, with the top 85 percent averaging 35.3 MPH.

Currently, the southern committee is in the process of collecting votes for their project and hopes to finalize its request by September, according to committee member Sandra Braxton-Riley. The northern committee is in the process of creating a ballot, and hopes to hold its community meeting in September and collect all votes by Oct. 1, according to committee member Beverly Roberts.

'This is really needed'

While the committees and projects are different in scope and timeline, and may be competing for funding, they do share one thing; a laundry list of horror stories.

"Almost every door we knock on, people have a story," Roberts said.

Cathy Lanham, who has lived on the road north of Route 175 since 1972, said she has had two of her family's cars totaled while parked at her house.

"I understand we all have places to go and we all are in a hurry to get somewhere. I'm one of those people," she said. "But we in our neighborhood have to do something to make people aware of the danger because they are not present to their driving."

Margaret Mauro, who lives 1,000 feet north of Route 175, recalls having a new car totaled in the 1990s. Mauro, who also serves on the Oakland Mills Village Board, said she can't safely cross the street to get her mail, and instead has to drive to pick it up from the community mailbox across the street.

Braxton-Riley said the southern side isn't any better.

"This is really needed, it's urgent to our safety," Braxton-Riley said.

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