A concrete "pork chop" built in a southbound lane of Route 30 between Manchester and Hampstead is an accident waiting to happen, according to nearby residents and their state delegate.
The State Highway Administration agrees - and the directional island will be removed, said Daniel P. Doherty, a transportation engineer in the agency's engineering access permits division.
"We are going to have it removed back to the existing curb lane," said Doherty-who knows the spot well, because he lives in Manchester and commutes to Baltimore. "It's a modification that came about after seeing the thing in the field."
The barrier received state permits and was built in mid-June for a new entrance to North Carroll Shopping Center, which has a Wal-Mart opening soon, said Glenn L. Weinberg, attorney and manager for H. M. Mall Associates Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of the Cordish Co. of Baltimore.
When Republican Del. Joseph M. Getty of Manchester first saw the barrier last month, "My immediate thought was the same as everybody else's: 'It's going to cause an accident. That can't possibly be right.' It completely blocks the right-hand lane."
Getty wrote of his concern June 29 to the developer, the state and the Carroll County commissioners.
The concrete island - called a pork chop by builders, although it looks more like a T-bone - is blocked by a line of orange barrels. If the lane were reopened, traffic in the right lane would have to veer left or be forced to enter the shopping center.
The spot, where the posted speed drops to 40 mph, lies on a curve south of North Carroll Middle School in an area called Greenmount. Residents on the southbound side have been moving barrels to get in and out, said Mildred Ecker of the 2400 block of Hanover Pike.
Kenneth E. and Ruby I. Bull have lived across the street in the 2300 block of Hanover Pike on North Carroll Lane since 1953, and had trouble making the left turn onto the lane from Route 30, which has heavy truck and commuter traffic from Pennsylvania to Baltimore.
"They go racing through here," he said last week, recalling how drivers behind him sometimes leaned on their horns and shouted, before swinging around him into the now-blocked right lane, when he stopped to turn.
The narrow private lane has seven houses, and some have private businesses that generate traffic, he said. "I can foresee accidents."
Ruby Bull, 72, who grew up across the lane and remembers when Route 30 had a cattle crossing, worried about what could happen if the barrier were in place when school opens, with about two dozen buses traveling that stretch.
"It's been a passing zone, and now it's not. It will be worse when school lets out," she predicted. "They should have caught it before it went too far."
Bull, 74, was a project manager and superintendent in construction with the Army Corps of Engineers, and worked for Baltimore County as a police officer and as a school safety officer before he retired in 1989. He said he expressed concerns to the construction crews a month ago when they began pouring concrete for the barrier, then contacted Getty.
"I thought they were creating more of a hazard than what we had here, by blocking a whole lane," he said. "I built a number of shopping centers and malls, too, that had to tie in with state and county roads. I don't consider myself an amateur."
"I think he's right," said Getty. "If you're coming south on 30 to turn left on North Carroll Lane, the pork chop will slow traffic that used to weave around to the right. This blocks the entire right-hand lane, so two lanes southbound come down to one."
It gives people leaving the shopping center a protected exit lane, with traffic blocked in the right lane, he noted.
Doherty said the state has been aware of the problem, which originated in the 1960s.
"We're going to have the developer modify it," he said of the barrier, which was intended to make traffic flow right in and right out of the shopping center, and was properly designed. "It's a driver-expectation problem."
The middle school to the north has a bypass lane, he said, but "people are supposed to get back to the left into the through lane prior to the shopping center. The right lane was built in the late 1960s by the shopping center as a deceleration lane for customers."
"However, the lane is so long -- 2,000 feet or better - that it goes the whole length of the shopping center and people are accustomed to using it as a through lane now, thus creating a through lane," he said.
The barrier island would have been appropriate if the sight distance weren't shortened by the curve there.
"It's been used for the past 30 years, so you can't put something in," Doherty said. "Everybody expects it to be open."
At the shopping center, Weinberg said H. M. Mall plans to renovate the fronts of existing buildings, install new lights and signs, repave the parking lot, and add a Burger King near the entrance. The Wal-Mart building has been delivered to the corporation for it to begin work inside with fixtures and inventory.
"We will look at anything that is suggested to us by State Highways, but nothing's been finalized to my knowledge, said Weinberg.
"This is what State Highways told us to do: We had all our permits and we built in accordance with our permits," he said. "It's been in the plans for months and months and months and months."