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Washington County group offers proposals to curb congestion at Pilot Travel Center

October 17, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Noting that citations and fines are not deterring tractor-trailer drivers from parking illegally on French Lane, local transportation officials on Wednesday said physical barriers might be needed to solve the problem.

Members of the Washington County Transportation Advisory Committee made several suggestions to curb congestion on the road adjacent to Pilot Travel Center north of Williamsport, including installing a center median, erecting guardrails and narrowing a cul-de-sac at the end of French Lane.

Those ideas and others will be studied over the next month by Washington County Traffic Engineer Merle Saville, who will present a report to the Transportation Advisory Committee in November.

In the meantime, Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth II said he will draft a letter to Pilot Travel Center's corporate offices saying that the county is considering changes to French Lane that could significantly affect the company's business.

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Kroboth said he hopes the letter will spur Pilot to help solve the problem, which has clogged traffic at Md. 63 and Interstate 70 for months.

"We just need to get (Pilot) to the table," Kroboth said.

French Lane is a public road that connects Md. 63 to Pilot's semi-truck parking area. Homeowners on French Lane have complained that truck drivers who are unable to find spots in Pilot's parking area simply park along French Lane for the night, making it difficult for residents to get in and out of the road.

Congestion on French Lane also backs up onto Md. 63 and sometimes onto the I-70 off-ramp.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said county police are powerless to solve the problem. Sheriff's deputies can write $25 citations, but truck drivers are happy to pay the fine in exchange for a good night's sleep, Mullendore said.

"They literally laugh at the deputies who write the tickets," Mullendore said Wednesday.

A bill introduced during the 2008 regular session of the Maryland General Assembly would have made it a misdemeanor for tractor-trailers to park on residential streets, raised the fine for doing so to $500 and given the sheriff's department authority to impound vehicles in violation.

The bill died in committee but will be reintroduced in 2009.

However, Kroboth has said that while it will address parking on French Lane, it will not help congestion on a nearby access road, Md. 63 or the interstate.

Mullendore and Kroboth said Wednesday that the root of the problem is that Pilot's parking lot is not large enough to handle the volume of trucks that stop at the travel center.

However, the county approved the site plan when the travel center was built and cannot now force the company to expand the lot.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr. wrote a letter in August to Pilot Vice President of Development Bill Mulligan saying Pilot needs to expand the parking lot onto an 8-acre parcel the company owns behind the travel center.

Myers said Wednesday he has not gotten a response to that letter.

Kroboth said he hopes Pilot will respond to a letter from the county if the company is concerned that changes to French Lane might affect its business.

"Somehow we have to motivate them that this is a shared problem," Kroboth said.

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