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All roads head nowhere fast

October 25, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

Like many motorists, I am outraged at the recent decision to make two streets in Funkstown one-way, heading east.

I think they all ought to be one way. All heading east.

What happens when people are allowed to go west? They get chased around by wildfires, that's what. I do not know one single person who has driven east on Funkstown's one-way streets this week who currently is being threatened by gale-force-wind-driven infernos. Case closed. The roads department is a genius.

As an added benefit, if all the streets in Funkstown were one-way, the people driving in from the southeast would be spared the misery of arriving in Hagerstown. They would bounce off and land in Smithsburg or Frederick. That's a win. Sort of.

Neither Frederick nor Hagerstown have a shortage of one-way streets of their own - one-way streets being the motoring byproduct of governments that fail to think. This is particularly interesting in Hagerstown, where motorists coming from the south or east will miss the business district altogether, unless they are willing to go around the block more times than Joan Collins.

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Like many people, I was stunned to learn that the reason Funkstown's streets were changed to one-way was to keep people from getting to Hagerstown faster. Really? This was a problem? Most people I know will do anything they can to lengthen the trip.

If you're unfamiliar with the topo, think of the route in question as a harp with only two strings. If you're going to go from the bottom of the harp to the top, the government wants you to drive all the way around the perimeter of the harp instead of using one of the two strings - which clever people by now will have figured out represent roads - as a shortcut.

But the two roads, or "strings," run through residential neighborhoods, and if people are hurried enough to take a rather dubious shortcut, they are likely to be driving faster than the posted speed limits. That, coupled with the fact that a lot of people in Washington County believe that a red, octagonal sign means "put it to the floor," has put people in the neighborhood in fear for their lives.

So the government decided to make the streets one-way - for one block. Look, maybe they are concerned about safety, maybe they want to get in Guinness World Records for shortest one-way street, I don't know.

I don't know, maybe it's me, but when I hear that a street is one-way, I think the street is one way. And sure enough, motorists on the two streets in question are gesturing wildly at westbound traffic, well past the one-block one-way zone. You know, with the exaggerated moving of the lips when you're in your car, "ITSWHOONWAAAY" - even though it isn't, prompting more lip-gesturing in return, "NOOWITTSNOOT."

It's pretty amusing really, if you're looking for something to do one afternoon. It's like road rage, silent-movie style.

'Course the more pressing problem is that without the relief valve that these two streets provide for surplus traffic, cars back up all along the government-preferred route, or "harp," a situation that evokes a lot of sour notes on its own.

And I can't help but wonder - oh, never mind. It's just that ... don't all these people who are driving west through Funkstown ever come back? I'd think they would have to. So logically, the two streets in question should also be one-way, for one block, against eastbound traffic as well.

So you'd get one-way eastbound for a block, two blocks of two-way and then one-way westbound for a block. The Brits and their cockamamie roundabouts only wish they had thought of that one. I'd urge the roads department in Funkstown to get right on it before someone steals the idea.

Like Frederick.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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