The Maryland Department of Transportation has analyzed a 4-mile stretch of Md. 26 in the southern part of Carroll County and recommended ways to improve the roadway while planning for future development.
The MDOT State Highway Administration in 2018 partnered with the Carroll County Department of Planning to begin reassessing the future needs of this state highway in the Eldersburg area. Officials from SHA presented their findings and recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on Sept. 10.
The purpose of the analysis is to serve as a guiding document for the future development or redevelopment of the Md. 26 corridor. Under the direction of the Board of Commissioners, the new analysis would supersede a 2002 study. The Md. 26 corridor study also contributes to the creation of a Carroll County transportation master plan. Approving the study does not necessarily mean the suggested changes will take place.
“MDOT SHA ultimately decides the projects because it is their road and budget, however the County has a big hand in prioritizing its needs in the jurisdiction,” county planning director Lynda Eisenberg wrote in an email.
In the meeting, Eisenberg described the new study as a way to help the county and SHA target future road projects that can feasibly be accomplished as development occurs. The 2002 recommendations, she said, proposed a larger, boulevard-type project that wasn’t attainable.
SHA, with help from the county planning department, examined Md. 26 from Md. 32 to the Liberty Reservoir. Traffic data from 2015 to 2017 showed most crashes in this area occurred during the day and 40% during typical commuting hours, according to Tara Penders, an assistant division chief with SHA. Of the crashes, 32% involved injuries and 2% were fatal. There is more traffic congestion on the western side of Md. 26, where there are more commercial properties, Penders said. About 35,000 vehicles pass through that area daily. East of Ridge and Oklahoma roads, about 19,000 vehicles drive through the area that is more residential in nature. Considering county development data, SHA anticipates the area around the corridor will be fully developed after 2040.
SHA recommended installing a median island on Md. 26 between Md. 32 and Ridge Road/Oklahoma Road as part of a safety and operational strategy, Penders said. The median would replace the existing continuous two-way center left-turn lane. According to the study, “conflict between left-turning vehicles and through traffic is a driving factor of angle, left-turn, and rear-end crashes in the corridor.”
To benefit pedestrians, 5-foot sidewalks were proposed, plus a 3-foot grassy buffer, between Georgetown Road and Ridge/Oklahoma Road, the study shows. Penders also recommended a sidewalk feasibility study be conducted. Md. 26 intersections with Carroll Highlands Road, Panorama Drive and Fallon Road may benefit from the installation of traffic signals in the future as travel volume increases, the study found.
Two intersections that racked up a number of crashes caught the state’s attention: Md. 26 at Md. 32 and Md. 26 at Georgetown Boulevard. Thirty crashes were recorded at each of these locations between 2015 and 2017. To improve the Md. 32 intersection, SHA recommends more auxiliary lanes to mitigate crashes and suggests Carroll County prioritize this intersection for future study. About one-third of crashes were rear-end collisions, while another third stemmed from left-turns or angle crashes, the study states. The Georgetown Boulevard intersection would be improved with the addition of a median along Md. 26, according to the study, as about half of the crashes at this location involved left-turning eastbound traffic and westbound through traffic.
The intersection of Md. 26 and Ridge/Oklahoma Road also has room for improvement as traffic increases, the study found. It recommends creating a dedicated westbound right-turn lane, less than 300 feet long so as not to affect driveways.
In anticipation of more traffic as the area develops, the study recommends adding auxiliary lanes, also called acceleration/deceleration lanes, so vehicles have more space to merge. MDOT SHA suggests adding a westbound Md. 26 through/right-turn lane from Ridge/Oklahoma Road to Eldersburg Crossing, east of Md. 32. Additionally, the study recommends converting the eastbound Md. 26 right-turn lane to a continuous through/right lane from Eldersburg Crossing, east of the Md. 32, to Ridge/Oklahoma Road.
The cost of the proposed changes to Md. 26 would fall on the state, Eisenberg said, but the county would have the option of contributing funds to move projects along.
Commissioner Ed Rothstein, whose District 5 includes Eldersburg, said he’s heard concerns from residents regarding the Md. 26 intersection with Johnsville Road and recommended officials study that intersection as well. Eisenberg said that particular spot was not part of this study but could be a separate, special project.
Rothstein pushed for SHA to consider the age of residents in the community, which includes older adults, when designing crosswalk improvements. The commissioner suggested officials seek community input moving forward, especially from those who live near the areas in question.
“They have the best insight,” Rothstein said. “Whatever we can do to minimize anxiety and angst in our community when they get out of their driveway and get on the road, that’s what I think we’re all trying to strive for.”
He also raised concern over center lanes, referring to them as “suicide lanes,” and suggested adding medians at specific points along the road.
Acknowledging the volume of information presented to them, the Board of Commissioners chose to wait to decide on its recommendation of the study at a future meeting.
After the meeting, Rothstein said SHA leadership reached out to him about his concerns. They plan to meet in the future.
“My focus and requests back to the SHA leadership is to take into consideration the different communities, especially the elderly, that are dependent on ingress and egress onto [Md.] 26,” he wrote. “As I’ve said before, it is our, Carroll County Government, responsibility to resource the best we can for a safe and secure community.”