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What's in a Road Name? HOWARD COUNTY


As a quick glance at a Howard County street map will indicate, the jurisdiction seems to have more than its share of roads whose names change as they zig here and zag there.

Route 94 in the west county is a prime example. Starting in Carroll County as Woodbine Road, it becomes Florence Road after it crosses Frederick Road in Howard, then changes to Ellicott Road after passing through the town of Florence. Once over the Montgomery County line, the road takes on yet another new name, Annapolis Rock Road.

Confusing? It gets worse.

Just west of Woodbine-Florence-Ellicott Road is another Florence Road, with house numbers identical to those on the other Florence Road. This might be amusing if not for the fact that police, fire and medical emergency crews have been known to mix up one Florence Road with the other.

Last April 8, in fact, while responding to an emergency call in "the 2800 block of Florence Road," a local volunteer fire company went to the wrong Florence Road. The firefighters eventually found the correct address, but their search took 30 minutes longer than it should have.

Fortunately, the call turned out not to be serious. You would have heard more about it had the incident involved a greater loss of property or, far worse, a loss of life.

The risk of such a loss is why the county's Bureau of Communications has recommended dropping two of Route 94's three names and calling it simply Woodbine Road, all the way from the Carroll border to the Montgomery line. The county Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed change next month.

This seems a perfectly obvious and sensible solution. True, the change will inconvenience residents who must alter all sorts of personal records to reflect their new addresses. Then again, the bother should be no greater than that associated with moving to a new home. The county, too, will be inconvenienced by having to change street signs, maps and numerous records on file with the government.

These hassles, though, are really nothing compared with the grave danger that's possible when a confused emergency crew can't find the right address.

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