No solutions to congestion near Pilot Travel Center

August 29, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Doreen Bowers sometimes starts her morning commute by knocking on the door of a parked semitrailer, asking the sleeping driver to move the rig so she can get out of her driveway.

In the five years since she bought her house on French Lane, Bowers said she has been inconvenienced by tractor-trailers that park on or near her small residential street when the lot at the nearby Pilot Travel Center is full.

"It happens all the time," Bowers said.

Washington County officials say they are familiar with the problem, but don't know what can be done to prevent the congestion on French Lane or on the adjacent access road from Md. 63.

They say a scarcity of parking at the truck stop is to blame.

"Basically, that is the problem," Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said. "Pilot doesn't have enough parking, so when it's full, you have spillover onto the access road, onto French Lane and sometimes onto Greencastle Pike up the interstate ramp."


French Lane and the access road are marked with "No Parking" and "No Standing" signs, but Mullendore said police can do nothing more than write parking citations.

Mullendore said tired truckers usually are more than willing to pay the $25 fine in exchange for a good night's sleep.

"They've told us that they just expense it, so they're not even paying the fine themselves," Mullendore said. "It's a small inconvenience."

A bill introduced during this year's regular session of the Maryland General Assembly would have addressed part of the problem.

The bill would have made it a misdemeanor for tractor-trailer rigs to be parked on residential county streets, raised the fine for doing so to $500 and given the sheriff's department the authority to impound vehicles in violation.

But the bill, which addressed several issues, died in committee after the delegation attached an amendment requiring the Washington County Commissioners to study the economic impact of closing the Funkstown bridge.

Even if the bill had passed, however, it only would have addressed parking on French Lane, not congestion on the access road, Md. 63 or the interstate.

"This issue is primarily an access entrance issue," Joseph Kroboth II, Washington County's public works director, wrote in an e-mail.

Kroboth said changes to the access will have to be addressed by the Maryland State Highway Administration because Md. 63 is a state road.

Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr said the problem belongs to Pilot Travel Center.

"They asked us not to do anything drastic. They said when the new center opened up (on Halfway Boulevard), the congestion would get better. And it hasn't," said Barr, who argued that Pilot could fix the situation by purchasing an adjacent eight-acre lot and expanding its parking area.

Todd Kelly, manager of Pilot Travel Center on Greencastle Pike, refused to comment Monday and directed a reporter to the company's corporate headquarters.

Bill Mulligan, vice president of development for the company, argued that traffic congestion has improved at the truck stop since Pilot opened the Halfway Boulevard location, noting that "volume has dropped more than 30 percent."

"That solved the problem," Mulligan said.

Bowers disagreed.

"No, it definitely has not made a difference," said Bowers, who has put her house up for sale. "We were hoping it would, but we haven't noticed a change (since the new Pilot Travel Center opened)."

In a letter to Mulligan dated Aug. 21, Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr. wrote, "Traffic for the most part has improved, but turning onto French Lane between the hours of 4-6 p.m. is impossible. The parking on private property as overflow parking when the Pilot is full still remains a problem."

In the letter, Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, called the expansion of Pilot's parking lot into the adjacent eight-acre lot the "final option."

Barr said the Washington County Transportation Advisory Committee will discuss the issue at its Sept. 17 meeting.

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