What's wrong with this picture?

October 04, 2009

Editor's note: Each Monday, The Herald-Mail will highlight an infrastructure issue or other problem, and will try to find out what is being done to fix or improve the situation.

We will not tackle situations involving neighborhood or domestic disputes or consumer problems.

The problem: Firefighters and nearby residents say a sharp curve on Md. 494 (Fairview Road) in northern Washington County is the site of frequent crashes.

Fairview Road resident Rob Soper sent in the above photo of an SUV that overturned at the curve on Sept. 26. He noted his family has witnessed more than three dozen wrecks since moving to the area one year ago.

State records show seven crashes were reported to police in 2008 in the roughly 1.6-mile stretch of Fairview Road between Spickler and Rockdale roads, which includes the curve, State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said. Other crashes might not have been reported, he said.


From 2002 through 2008, the area averaged a little more than four police-reported crashes each year, Buck said. One motorcycle crash on the curve in 2007 was fatal, he said.

"It's just a problem area because it's so sharp there," said Andrew Repp, a firefighter with Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co. "There's a lot of warning signs, but I guess if you're new to the area, you misjudge it."

Soper said he has attempted to get the SHA to install a stop sign at the curve, without success. Yvonne Bryan of Hagerstown, who was a passenger in the SUV that overturned Sept. 26, said she didn't know if a stop sign would make a difference.

"They need to rearrange the road and cut that curve down," Bryan said.

She said she suffered torn cartilage in her rib cage, her husband suffered a leg injury and their Ford Explorer was totaled in the crash.

Who could fix it: Maryland State Highway Administration.

What they say: Buck said SHA was familiar with the spot and was in the process of implementing improvements suggested in a 2006 study of the curve.

In 2007, SHA changed signs warning drivers of the curve to make them larger and more visible, Buck said. The study also recommended installing rumble strips along the center line, he said. Those have not yet been installed, but could be put in this year, he said.

In addition, SHA recently decided to make the lane edge lines wider, an effect that has been shown to make drivers slow down, Buck said. That work is scheduled for next spring, he said.

Buck said putting a signal or stop sign at the curve was not considered, but it probably would not be a good idea because adding a stop on a main road where it is not expected could cause more crashes than it prevents.

Realigning the road would be a major capital project that would require land acquisition and could cost millions of dollars, he said.

There is only so much engineering can achieve, Buck said.

"We do everything we can to make them as safe as possible, and then the motorist needs to do their part, too," he said.

Following up:

Northern Avenue railroad crossing

Wilson Shearer, who suggested last week's item about trains not observing the quiet zone at the Northern Avenue railroad crossing, reports that the routine use of horns at the crossing has stopped.

"The quiet is wonderful!!" Shearer wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday. He said a CSX spokesman called him to express regret for the misunderstanding.

Market House parking lot entrance

The City of Hagerstown has finished installing fresh concrete and pavement at the entrance to the Market House parking lot featured in the Sept. 21 "What's wrong with this picture."

-- Compiled by Heather Keels

If you are aware of a safety problem, a major annoyance or a pet peeve that one of our governmental bodies, an agency or an organization is responsible for fixing, send the information, and a photo if you have it, to:

What's Wrong With This Picture
c/o The Herald-Mail newsroom
100 Summit Ave.
Hagerstown MD 21740

You can e-mail the information to

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