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What's wrong with this picture?

November 01, 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: Lappans Road resident Eric Evitts said dozens of crashes happen each year on a curve in Lappans Road (Md. 68) near Bob Lane, about three-quarters of a mile west of Sharpsburg Pike (Md. 65).

"If you don't know the curve and you don't slow down, you end up sliding into the opposite lane," Evitts said.

That happens most often to vehicles approaching the curve heading east from Williamsport, particularly in the rain, he said.

Many of the crashes are never reported to police, he said.

The curve is marked with yellow arrow signs and a 25 mph speed-limit advisory, but Evitts said he does not believe those measures are enough.

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"I think they need to warn people better with rumble strips," he said.

In addition, Evitts said he thought the road was not crowned very well.

"You can feel the weight of the vehicle shifting," he said. "You can feel your vehicle wants to go into the opposite lane."

Often, vehicles end up hitting a nearby utility pole, Evitts said.

Allegheny Power spokesman Todd Meyers said the company has had seven outages on that section of road in the past four years, including four involving broken poles due to vehicle accidents.

Meyers said anything that could be done to reduce crashes in that area would improve the reliability of the power system and could potentially save lives.

Who could fix it: Maryland State Highway Administration

What they say: SHA spokesman David Buck said the SHA has not had any requests to examine the curve, but he encouraged those familiar with the problem to submit a written request for specific improvements to district engineer Anthony Crawford at acrawford@sha.md.us.

Buck said that in the last three complete calendar years, 30 crashes have been reported to police in the roughly three-mile stretch of Lappans Road that includes the curve. There were seven reported crashes there in 2006, nine in 2007 and 14 in 2008, Buck said. None was fatal, he said.

Buck said that because most crashes involve driver error, the SHA considers other factors such as sight distance, average daily traffic and proximity to schools when deciding whether engineering or sign changes are needed.

If the crashes at a site are due to factors like inattention, drunken driving or medical conditions, "there's not a lot engineering can do," he said.

In 10 of the 30 reported crashes at the curve in 2006, 2007 and 2008, speed was noted as the probable cause of the crash, Buck said. One was related to alcohol, one because a driver fell asleep, one a collision with an animal and one due to icy conditions. For many of the others, no cause was listed.

Following up:

Buck said rumble strips have been installed on Md. 494 (Fairview Road) on the eastbound approach to another crash-prone curve, which was featured in the Oct. 5 "What's wrong with this picture?" story. Those strips are made from thick tape that goes across a traffic lane to warn drivers to slow down, Buck said. The SHA has also added a sign on eastbound Md. 494 warning drivers that an abrupt curve is coming up, he said.

Another change to slow drivers on that road, the painting of wider lane-edge lines, should happen within the next month, weather-permitting, Buck said.

Library alley potholes: The potholes in the alley that runs between Baltimore and Antietam streets behind the Washington County Free Library, which were described in the Oct. 26 "What's wrong with this picture?" story, have been patched.

-- 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 lindad@herald-mail.com.

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