Street sign colors are keyed to who maintains the road


IT'S FUNNY how some people - myself included - can drive around for years, wondering why Howard County street signs are color-coded without trying to find the answer. Karen Gilbert isn't one of them.

"The street signs in the Columbia area are different colors - some green, some brown, some blue," Gilbert said. "At the corner of Eden Brook and Guilford Road, the Guilford Road sign is green on one side of the street and blue on the other. What is the significance of the different colors?"

The county's street signs are color-coded for location or ownership, said JoAnn Maxfield, customer service spokeswoman for the Howard County Department of Public Works.

"For instance, county-owned and -maintained roads are green," she said. "The signs in Columbia [for town-maintained streets] are blue, and those in the Historic District of Main Street Ellicott City are red, but are still owned and maintained by the county. Signs on privately owned streets are brown so our crews know that they are not maintained by us but by the residents/owners."

It is always a pleasure to hear what the county or the State Highway Administration is doing right, so I was happy to receive this e-mail recently from Brenda Stup and Steve Tulloss:

"Please send our gratitude to the transportation folks who put the traffic circle at the intersection of Rogers Avenue and Old Frederick Road. I know some folks are unhappy with the change, but for those of us who routinely make the left turn from Old Frederick to go south on Rogers, the circle is a huge improvement over the interminable waits we used to experience during evening rush hour. Most folks seem to be adapting well, i.e., remembering to yield to traffic in the circle before entering, and traffic speeds on Rogers seem to have moderated. Thanks so much for a thoughtful solution."

Gratitude sent, and thank you for taking the time to let the people at the Department of Public Works know their work is appreciated.

More pet peeves

From the good to the bad: A constant of Traffic Talk is the stream of complaints about roads or drivers. Jane Misey said she has a few pet peeves, "but the biggest problem on our roads are the drivers who park themselves in the left-hand lane and remain there. That lane is meant to be a passing lane. It creates bottlenecks and promotes road rage."

Littering is another of Misey's pet peeves. "Some people think nothing of using our roads and byways as their personal garbage cans," she said. "Why can't people keep a bag in their car for their waste? I would like to see more ticketing for this wanton practice!"

Bob Bundens gets wrapped around the axle by people who drive with their fog lights on when the weather conditions don't call for them. "Don't they realize that fog lights act like high beams to oncoming cars?" he asked.

People credit me with more power than I have. Timothy Syzek, for one, seems to think I can change driver behavior. "Teach people to use their turn signals!" he demanded recently. "Most people in Maryland either don't know how to use them, or they don't work, or people ignore them and hope that other drivers will read their minds as to their intentions when they turn or change lanes on the highway."

Last time I checked, turn signals were standard equipment on all vehicle models, so it's a wonder to me, too, that drivers don't use them more often. It's defensive driving 101, and letting other motorists know you're about to turn or switch lanes isn't giving away any national secrets. My question to those who don't use turn signals regularly: Is it laziness or do you really want to surprise other drivers? Either way, not using your turn signals is just plain stupid.

And finally, Ann Henry presents a question for Traffic Talk readers: "Why do drivers continue to leave a gap of four or five car lengths at traffic lights? I seem to be the one that didn't make the light just because some idiot decides to hang back. Please help me out with this one, it still drives me nuts."

Does anyone have an answer?

Road closure

Look for nighttime lane closures this week on U.S. 29 south from Brokenland Parkway to Rivers Edge.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Please include your full name and contact information.

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