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Stuck in traffic

Officials, parents frustrated with congested conditions

Officials, parents frustrated with congested conditions

September 05, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

Early morning traffic outside one school in Hagerstown gets a failing grade from officials and parents.

Traffic conditions on Md. 65 from Wilson Boulevard in Hagerstown to Col. Henry K. Douglas Drive south of Interstate 70 during morning and afternoon rush hours earned an E/F grade when it came to traffic congestion, according to Joe Kroboth, director of Washington County's Division of Public Works, and Rodney Tissue, city engineer for Hagerstown. Md. 65 is also known as South Potomac Street in Hagerstown and Sharpsburg Pike south of the city.

Antoinette Churchey, of Funkstown, said it can take her five to 10 minutes to get from the Sheetz at Oak Ridge Drive to the drop-off point in front of Emma K. Doub School for Integrated Arts and Technology. That sometimes includes spending two minutes sitting on Md. 65, waiting to turn left into Doub's driveway.

This stretch of Md. 65 is not the only stretch of road or intersection in the Hagerstown area with a failing grade (see sidebar and map), but we decided to pick one to highlight.

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Tie-ups on South Potomac

South Potomac between Wilson Boulevard and Oak Ridge Drive is congested in the morning and afternoon by cars and buses waiting to turn into school driveways for Doub, E. Russell Hicks Middle School, and South Hagerstown High School.

We visited Doub on Monday morning, as parents were dropping off their children, and on Tuesday afternoon, as drivers waited for students to be let out of school for the day. This past Monday, because some buses were running late, traffic moved without delay for the most part.

On Tuesday, there were cars waiting for students to be let out of school. Several parents show up early to wait for their kids to get out of Doub so we had a chance to ask them about traffic conditions on Md. 65.

Tom Cygnarowicz said traffic on Md. 65 isn't bad except when schools are starting. He has sat in his car on Md. 65 for up to five minutes, waiting for an opportunity to turn left into Doub's driveway.

No plans for improvement

But Cygnarowicz said he doesn't think the situation is bad enough to justify whatever it would cost to improve the road or the school driveway.

George Small, assistant district engineer for traffic for Maryland State Highway Administration's local district, said there are no plans for improvements along that stretch of Md. 65.

That segment of the highway was not on the agency's radar, Small said. "We haven't looked at it. ... Usually those things come out as a result of some major study."

The agency did upgrade a traffic light at the South High entrance two years ago. Before, the light just flashed. Now when a camera detects vehicles waiting to exit from South High during arrival and dismissal times, the light changes from flashing to a typical traffic light with red, yellow and green lights.

One backup leads to another

Heidi Phillips, who lives off Wilson Boulevard, said she tries to avoid Md. 65. But she still has to get her son to and from Doub. She arrives early enough in the morning that southbound traffic isn't very congested. But sometimes, on her way to Doub, she has to sit through two traffic light cycles to turn from Wilson Boulevard onto South Potomac Street.

"I feel bad for the people coming the other direction," she said Phillips, referring to the line of cars that forms in front of Doub on northbound Md. 65 as drivers wait to pull into the school.

Part of the problem is the traffic backup from parents waiting to drop off their children at Doub.

The line of vehicles can wind from one school entrance through a side parking lot, along the front of the school and back out another driveway. Sometimes that line sits still for a while or moves so slowly that vehicles back up on Md. 65. This can lead to lines on the shoulder of Md. 65 and northbound cars waiting on South Potomac to turn left. Northbound cars trying to get to Wilson or points north get stuck in that line, too.

The afternoon line of parents' cars forms early. When picking up her son, Amanda Bussard said she tries to get to Doub early enough to get at or near the head of that line. The longer she has to wait, the longer her other son, a kindergartner who attends Funkstown Elementary School, has to wait to get picked up after school.

The backup along Md. 65 and in Doub's driveway can get so bad that Jo Ann Barron said she arrives at 2:05 p.m. to pick up her granddaughter, who is dismissed from school at 2:40 p.m.

No easy answers

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