A lot of powerful people prefer a traffic signal to the proposed "jug handle" traffic flow plan for the intersection of Route 140 and Royer Road-Meadow Branch Road in Westminster.
But the decision will be made by the State Highway Administration, and two of the agency's engineers say a traffic signal would guarantee an increase in accidents.
At a public meeting concerning the proposal yesterday at Meadow Branch Church of the Brethren -- which is at the corner in question -- residents and church members were not convinced. They said the jug-handle plan would just create two more dangerous intersections.
Among those who have urged the SHA to consider a traffic light are state Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, and Carroll school Superintendent R. Edward Shilling, both of whom live on Meadow Branch Road; Del. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll; Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown; developer Wayne Lockard; and Ruth Roop Rinehart Roth, a longtime resident and Meadow Branch church member.
Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, who attended the meeting, did not say whether he supported a traffic signal but did say he would try to work with the state officials to improve the intersection.
The proposal -- which SHA officials reaffirmed is not final -- would make a jug handle out of Old Taneytown Road to connect Royer Road to Route 140 1,200 feet west of the current intersection. Motorists would use the jug handle to turn left onto Route 140, to get to Meadow Branch Road -- directly across 140 from Royer Road -- or to get from Meadow Branch Road to eastbound 140.
Old Taneytown Road now goes diagonally from Royer Road toward 140 but stops short at a cornfield. The street would have to be extended, widened and repaved, which would require taking some church property, including an old stone wall at the cemetery, and some land owned by Mrs. Roth.
Highway officials say the Route 140-Old Taneytown Road intersection would have better visibility and less oncoming traffic than the current Royer-140-Meadow Branch corner.
The existence of Old Taneytown Road is the only reason the jug handle occurred to state officials, said Douglas R. Rose, an SHA highway district engineer. The idea is a new one, he said.
"I'm concerned about stacking traffic in a poor area of visibility, with traffic moving at a high speed," said Mr. Shilling. He said he spoke as a 27-year resident of Meadow Branch Road and as the county school superintendent.
Catherine Anderson of Hampstead said she turns left from Route 140 to get to the Meadow Branch Church. She said slowing to the posted 45-mph speed limit approaching that intersection seems to anger motorists behind her.
"I get the finger and laying on the horn because I slow down to 45," she told the SHA officials.
"There's something Rube Goldberg about this," Mayor Brown said of the jug-handle proposal.
"It's better to just wait" than to build the jug handle, the mayor said, because in a few years development will lead to enough traffic to justify a traffic signal.
Mr. Brown said motorists avoid the intersection because it is so ++ difficult to turn onto Route 140. He said that if a traffic signal was installed, the resulting traffic flow would be sure to justify it.
But Gene Straub, SHA's assistant district engineer for traffic, said vehicle counts show that most people who would use the intersection already are using it.
The biggest obstacle to a traffic signal is a manual of traffic regulations that Maryland and other states follow. The manual says that a signal would be justified if left-turning or through traffic on Royer Road or Meadow Branch Road averaged 70 vehicles an hour for eight hours.
The highest counts recorded were about 50 vehicles between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., Mr. Straub said.
He and Mr. Rose said they are considering safety, not cost.
A traffic signal would cost about $75,000, Mr. Rose said, compared with an estimated $400,000 for the jug handle. About half of the cost of the jug handle cost would be to construct a right-turn lane for traffic going from Route 140 to Meadow Branch Road.
Mr. Rose said no matter what plan is adopted, that right-turn lane will be a part of it.