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Reader's query leads to intersection change


COLUMBIA RESIDENT Caroline Evans wonders about roads in "downtown" Columbia, including one intersection that is "not a major problem, [but] still an inconvenient situation."

"Each week when I see your column I mean to write to you about a problem where Governor Warfield Parkway joins Little Patuxent Parkway," Evans said. "The two lanes from Governor Warfield Parkway feed into the center and right lanes of Little Patuxent Parkway. In the past they were the two through lanes. The left lane merged into the center lane before Little Patuxent Parkway crossed U.S. 29.

"Then, this spring, roadwork was done on Little Patuxent Parkway so that the right lane now feeds into the exit for U.S. 29 south and the two through lanes are the left and the center lane," she said. "I kept expecting that as a part of this project the lanes from Governor Warfield Parkway would be moved to feed into the through lanes, but that has never happened and the roadwork has long been finished. Now everyone who knows the intersection gets into the left lane on Governor Warfield Parkway and all go into the center lane of Little Patuxent Parkway so the traffic is awkwardly distributed."

Evans first contacted me in July about this, and I'd forwarded these comments to the Howard County Department of Public Works soon afterward. Because of e-mail glitches, I didn't get the county's response until last week. The good news is that the county has taken steps to correct this situation.

"The modification of the pavement markings along Little Patuxent Parkway at the U.S. 29 south ramp by the State Highway Administration last fall has impacted how the traffic on Governor Warfield Parkway uses the two lanes as it approaches the Little Patuxent Parkway traffic signal," said Diane Schwarzman, a traffic engineer for the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Highways, Traffic Engineering Division.

"Motorists destined for Route 175 east and U.S. 29 north have learned that at certain times of the day, it is easier if they use the left lane of Governor Warfield Parkway because it feeds into the center and left lanes of northbound Little Patuxent Parkway. As a result, they do not need to merge into the proper lane prior to the U.S. 29 South exit ramp."

Schwarzman added: "Our office has received at least three citizen inquiries [about] this," which prompted officials to modify the markings as suggested by Caroline Evans. These markings have been completed.

Great job, readers. This shows the value of your telephone calls to Howard County officials, as well as your comments to this column. Keep them coming.

Cheers for changes

Last week, I asked whether anyone thinks the changes to St. John's Lane improve safety.

A "resounding yes" comes from C.M. Murphy of Ellicott City, who said, "I do not understand the basis for Ms. Gosik's 'sympathy' or 'amusement.' She failed to mention the most important aspect of the [changes] at the intersection of St. John's Lane and Dunloggin Road: new four-way stop signs."

"For too long, uncontrolled heavy traffic speeded along St. John's Lane," Murphy said. "I believe the new four-way stop signs and islands at Dunloggin Road have had very beneficial results. Not only has speed been reduced but area residents using Dunloggin Road can now enter or cross St. John's Lane in a regulated and orderly fashion. I applaud the efforts and work of the county's traffic engineers."

Dual 'right of way'

Highland's Bernard Seneway correctly points out that "traffic signals never give two sets of drivers right of way," as a reader noted in a previous column.

"Mr. Spence correctly observes that eastbound U.S. 40 drivers turning left on Rogers Avenue and southbound Rogers Avenue drivers turning right on westbound U.S. 40 may receive simultaneous green arrows," Seneway said. "This signaling scheme is quite prevalent throughout the area. The green arrow signal gives you the authority to turn left. U-turns are subject to their own rules, the gist of which is that you must yield to everybody. The exception would be the presence of a 'green U' arrow, which is rather rare; I've only seen them at intersections where there is no intersecting street from the driver's left. So in Mr. Spence's example, the Rogers Avenue driver has the right of way, and she may use the ... westbound roadway to complete her turn."

That is not to say, however, that drivers always obey these rules, so although in theory one driver should yield to the driver who does have the signaled right of way, that doesn't mean that happens. Most drivers assume that when they have the green light, they can go, regardless. The prevailing rule is: Be careful and cautious all the time, whether you have the right of way or not.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at or send faxes to 410-715-2816. Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044.

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