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One way to fight traffic

Changes in Funkstown streets spark debate

Changes in Funkstown streets spark debate

November 25, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

FUNKSTOWN - There's a debate in Funkstown over whether one way is the right way.

In September, the town limited a block of Poplar Street and a block of Chestnut Street to one-way traffic.

Some in the neighborhood like the traffic-flow experiment, which, in theory, prohibits Edgewood Drive traffic from using the two residential roads as shortcuts through town.

But changing course after so many years has been confusing. Despite signs alerting drivers about the new restrictions, many vehicles still turn right onto Poplar and Chestnut and go the wrong way.

One recent weekday afternoon, a Herald-Mail reporter stood at the intersection of Poplar and High streets and watched at least 10 vehicles violate the one-way regulation in about an hour.

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A few neighbors stood and chatted, then more people came, creating an impromptu town meeting over the issue.

Residents called out to drivers as they slowed for a stop sign: "One way! One way!"

One driver heard the chant and continued, legally, onto the next block of Poplar, but turned around in a driveway and came back - apparently unaware of the one-way limit, then unsure where it started and ended.

By now, drivers should understand the restrictions, Lt. Tim Baker of the Washington County Sheriff's Department said, but many don't.

He said that after about two months, deputies had given 86 warnings and written 14 tickets to drivers who had gone the wrong way on Poplar or Chestnut.

The town contracts with the sheriff's department for deputies to patrol Funkstown for two hours each weekday, Baker said.

Councilman Robert D. Rodgers Jr. said the council could consider putting up barriers to prevent drivers from going the wrong way.

The Funkstown Town Council agreed to make the two blocks one-way, effective Sept. 24, as a three-month test. The council is scheduled to re-evaluate the situation in January.

The main problem in the neighborhood has been "too much traffic from outsiders," Mayor Robert L. Kline said. He said the new configuration is solving that problem.

"It does seem to be making a difference in traffic," Councilwoman Sharon Chirgott said.

"I think it's been great for the people on the street," Councilman Jerry R. Walker said.

Councilman Richard N. Nigh added that fewer drivers appear to be speeding and going through stop signs on those blocks, addressing other neighborhood concerns.

Brian Lovins, whose house is on the corner of Poplar and High streets, unsuccessfully pushed for the change about seven years ago. He is one of the strongest advocates of the one-way blocks. He said they make an "astronomical difference" in traffic volume, speeding and stop-sign violations.

Lovins' neighbor across High Street, Barbara King, used to be on his side, but said she changed her mind.

"The more I think about it, the more I'm against it," she said.

King said she has to drive several blocks out of the way to get home each time, which she called a waste of gas.

"If the (price of) gas had not gone up, I wouldn't have thought too much about it," she said.

"I have to go 5 1/2 blocks (more) to get home, but that's fine with me," Lovins said.

As neighbors stood near the Poplar-High intersection, they debated other ideas they have heard, including making the Poplar block one-way in one direction and the Chestnut block one-way in the other direction.

Council members pointed out that, aside from comments at meetings, the town has received just four letters about the one-way blocks. Three letters favor the change, one is opposed.

Walker said that's not enough feedback. He hopes to hear from more people before deciding how much support the one-way streets idea has.

When the council meets in January, it's scheduled to get a report from the sheriff's department on how the new traffic pattern is working, Chirgott said.

The council could let the one-way restrictions lapse or make them permanent.

Kline said there's a deeper solution out there to the town's traffic problems - a long-discussed bypass road.

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