Fatal crash illuminates traffic worries along Ellicott City thoroughfare

Kate Magill
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

To Gayle Killen, Monday’s fatal crash on Main Street in the west end of Ellicott City’s historic district is the latest and most devastating in what she said is a long string of safety incidents near her home.

Although the posted speed limit is 25 mph, Killen believes cars often speed down the county-maintained road, making it treacherous to walk along the sidewalk or to get in and out of parked cars.

The two-lane road is a major route from Howard County to the Catonsville area, according to Kris Jagarapu, deputy chief for the county’s bureau of highways. While the road is state Route 144, the stretch between the Patapsco River and Route 40 is maintained by Howard County.

Early Monday morning, Jeanette Marcella Carmody, of Ellicott City, was killed when she failed to navigate a curve on the road and the 2014 Toyota Corolla she was driving veered off the road and struck three parked vehicles. The county police, who are investigating, said the 30-year-old Carmody was not wearing a seat belt.

The authorities have not said whether speed was a factor in the crash, the first on the road this year. In 2016 and 2017 there was one accident each year, each resulting in non-serious injuries, police said.

Since the crash, several homemade signs have been posted, urging drivers to slow down, with phrases such as, “25 MPH, what do you not understand??”

Killen said drivers often speed through the neighborhood, just outside the historic district’s popular core of shops and restaurants, because they don’t realize it’s a residential community.

“This isn’t a normal highway this is a historic community and we can’t just be treated like we’re some standard Route 144 commuter route,” Killen said. “And I blame the everyday commuter as much as I blame the county.”

In response to Monday’s crash, elected leaders including County Councilman Jon Weinstein and state Del. Robert Flanagan, who both represent Ellicott City, are looking to find solutions.

“That’s a busy roadway that experiences speeding, and it goes right through a residential neighborhood,” said Flanagan, who wants to meet with state and county officials this week. “So that is something that demands attention.”

Options could include speed bumps, stricter speed enforcement or curb bump outs to slow traffic, said Director of the Department of Public Works Jim Irvin. The state’s minimum enforceable speed limit is 25 mph, so while the county could post lower speed limits in the area, it could not legally enforce them, Irvin said.

On Tuesday, police posted a portable monitoring sign and radar system to gather speed data.

The monitoring system was used in the area twice last year and the most recent study showed that the average speed was 27 mph, with 85 percent of vehicles traveling within the speed limit, according to police.

Killen believes such a study is flawed because motorists will simply slow down when approaching the speed sign. She wants a more thorough traffic study.

“They’ve put that sign up before and nothing happens. If you flash in everybody’s face that you’re speeding, that’s not a solution that’s a showpiece,” she said. “That’s to make people feel better that they’re being listened to. I think it’s irresponsible not to [conduct a traffic study], there’s a girl dead now.”

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