Following two crashes earlier this month at the intersection of Route 23 and Grafton Shop Road in Forest Hill, Harford County Councilman Chad Shrodes is renewing his efforts to get a roundabout there.
Shrodes, who represents northern Harford County on the council, sent individual letters Sept. 4 to Harford County’s senators and delegates as well as leaders of the Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transportation Authority, the Harford County Council and administration, and local police agencies, asking them to “join me in the effort to expedite” a roundabout, which has been rejected by the state several times.
“Please join me to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in northern Harford County by funding a roundabout at the intersection of MD 23 (East-West Highway) and Grafton Shop Road in Forest Hill,” Shrodes wrote.
Shrodes, elected to his first term in 2006, said in his letter he’s been fighting for the roundabout since 2014, “to no avail.”
He had not received a response from anyone at the state by Thursday, he said.
“There’s just way too many serious, and there have been fatal, accidents there at that intersection that have occurred in the past decade,” Shrodes said Thursday. “It’s just a really scary intersection for motorists and accidents continue to happen even after the lane-changing projects [the] State Highway Administration completed about a year ago.”
SHA installed exclusive left-hand turn lanes and rumble strips along Route 23 to alleviate traffic concerns, he wrote.
“Despite these efforts, serious crashes continue to occur frequently,” he wrote.
Speeds on Route 23 are “tremendously high,” he said and even though it looks like the visibility is OK, there are still too many accidents there, Shrodes said.
State officials have not built a roundabout there, he said, because it doesn’t rank high enough on the priority list.
“I’m not giving up on this, we’re going to get a roundabout,” Shrodes said. “I’m not going to stop until something is done.”
Every time he hears about an accident there, Shrodes worries. Is it someone he knows, someone in his family, someone he represents on the council?
“I just worry,” he said.
In the most recent crash, on Sept. 3, one person was injured badly enough that the patient should have been taken by Medevac to Shock Trauma in Baltimore, he said. The helicopter was down because of bad weather.
Since Shrodes last wrote to Gov. Larry Hogan, on Feb. 14, four crashes have been reported at the intersection, on June 1, June 11, Sept. 2 and Sept. 3, he wrote in his Sept. 4 letter. All involved multiple injures.
“My office has been in contact with the SHA continuously over the last several months and they have informed me that it is unlikely that the requested geometric improvement will receive funding in the next few years,” Shrodes wrote. “I urge you to make it a top priority and find funding in the budget for the design, engineering and construction of this roundabout.”
He also said he intends to ask Harford County Executive Barry Glassman to put at least a little money in the budget for a roundabout, hoping it would “raise this as a priority at the state level."
Shrodes said he anticipates it will be a topic of discussion at first meeting of the Forest Hill Citizens Advisory Board scheduled to meet later this month.
“Anything we can do to get this higher on the list in our region, I’m going to be pushing for an effort in that direction,” Shrodes said. “The constituents are very concerned about it and I am, too. I’m not giving up, we need to do something.”
Traffic concerns in other parts of northern Harford County will be discussed at Monday’s meeting of the Whiteford, Cardiff, Pylesville, Street Community Advisory Board, which will meet from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Whiteford Library.
SHA’s traffic team leader, John Vananzo, will be at the meeting to listen to concerns of residents in that community, the board chairman, Doug Howard said.
“There have been some problem intersections, there have been some hotspots,” Howard said.
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One of the problem areas is Route 24 and St. Mary’s Road in Pylesville, where there have been a number of crashes, he said.
Other traffic concerns are along Route 543 from Route 165 to Deer Creek and along Route 165, according to Patti Hankins’ Facebook post about the meeting.
“This is our community’s chance to inform MDOT SHA about our concerns,” Hankins wrote.
Howard said he intends to ask about the status of a walking trail along Route 165 from the Pennsylvania line to North Harford, in a SHA right of way.
At one time, there was discussion that if the county came up with a plan, SHA would be willing to allow use of the 175-foot right of way, Howard said.
“We’re still interested, but money gets tight, and we still don’t have a walking trail,” he said. “It’s the most used recreation by the widest age group.
"If we look at demographics, we’re getting older up here, and we think we need a walking trail more than soccer fields and ball fields. Us older people need something, too.”