- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Maryland State Highway Administration says there is no need at this time for a traffic signal at the intersection of Wildewood Parkway and St. Andrew’s Church Road in California, despite repeated calls for one.
“The results of our analysis indicate that installation of a traffic signal is not justified at this location,” Lee Starkloff, SHA district engineer, wrote on May 18 to the St. Mary’s County commissioners. “We understand that a certain amount of delay exists at this intersection during the peak commuting hours; however, this delay is typical along many roads that intersect an arterial roadway.”
Howard Thompson of Hollywood is chairman of the St. Mary’s County Planning Commission, but addressed the county commissioners Tuesday as a citizen to request a signal there. Residents of Wildewood have repeatedly called for a traffic light at the intersection.
Some developers are required to install traffic signals at intersections, Thompson said, while Wildewood has many more homes and doesn’t have the same requirements.
The developers of the Broadcreek subdivision off St. John’s Road in Hollywood requested a signal on Route 235 and that was accepted by the SHA.
Wildewood is a planned-unit development, which means it operates under its own special zoning regulations. It was first approved by the St. Mary’s County government in 1978, four years after the first county zoning ordinance was adopted, and amended in 1991. As of January, there were 2,308 homes built in Wildewood, and there is approval for 1,484 more.
“They have a very dangerous intersection,” Thompson said. “I’ve said everything I can at planning commission meetings. They don’t pay attention to us,” he said.
“We acknowledge the concern with the limited intersection (corner) sight distance for vehicles along Wildewood Parkway due to the alignment of the MD 4 roadway,” Starkloff wrote. Besides some sign improvements, “We also suggest a larger stop sign be installed.”
SHA shows that the average daily traffic count in 2011 on St. Andrew’s Church Road near Wildewood was 17,340. That’s just under the 17,450 on Chancellor’s Run Road at Route 235, which the state widened at a cost of $55 million.
“It’s just a hell of a mess” at the intersection of Route 4 and Wildewood Parkway, said Commission President Jack Russell (D).
He said he was going to bring up the issue to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office. “That’s probably the only way we’re going to get it done,” Russell said.
“I don’t know why the state is saying no,” said Commissioner Todd Morgan (R). “We’re asking for problems. We’re just waiting.”
There haven’t been any recent fatal accidents at the intersection, but there is a steady flow of minor accidents, Thompson said. “You have to have a fatality before they do something about it,” he said.
“Why do you have to wait for a fatal accident to do something?” Morgan said.
The nearby intersection of Route 4 and Route 235 is the busiest in St. Mary’s County with 59,381 vehicles a day passing through. The state has recommended a flyover ramp from Route 4 to southbound Route 235. That recommendation is part of a $5.5 million study to upgrade the intersection and to either replace or build another span of the Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge.
The Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland has asked the state to reconsider that recommendation. The St. Mary’s County commissioners favor an urban diamond intersection instead.
“The urban diamond has the most reserve capacity to accommodate future growth,” wrote John Groeger, deputy director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation, to the Maryland State Highway Administration. “Although the future growth of Naval Air Station Patuxent River is unknown at this time, constraining capacity at the single-most important intersection may affect the ability of the base to attract new jobs in future BRAC processes,” he said.
The state still needs federal environmental approval on its recommendation for the intersection upgrade, said Charlie Gischlar, spokesman for the highway administration. “It’s still very much in the preliminary stages,” he said.
Once the state makes a selection, there will be public meetings, which aren’t scheduled yet. There is no money budgeted for the next phase of design and engineering, Gischlar said.
“We probably won’t see it in our lifetime,” Russell said.
Estimates for a new or additional span of the Route 4 bridge are around $750 million.