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What's wrong with this picture?

November 22, 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: Black Rock Road between Md. 66 and Stottlemeyer Road is a curvy two-lane road that snakes around hills and trees, yet it is so narrow that many vehicles drive in its center.

"When a car comes, you have to quickly veer into your lane in order to miss the oncoming vehicle," a reader wrote in an e-mail.

In addition, the pavement on one side of the road is deteriorating, leaving one foot of nothing but mud and crumbling street, and making the lane even narrower, the reader wrote.

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Who could fix it: Washington County Division of Public Works

What they say: Washington County Director of Public Works Joseph Kroboth III said widening Black Rock Road is unlikely to happen unless a developer pays for it.

Like many rural roads, Black Rock Road grew up gradually over the years, curving around various properties, Kroboth said.

"There are many roads like that in Washington County, and simply the way they were set up initially hundreds of years ago when the property owners created the roadway sections over time, the alignments didn't necessarily meet the engineering standards of today," he said.

In the early 1990s, the county created a road adequacy policy that requires the access roads to new developments to be a certain width, which now is 18 feet, Kroboth said. If a developer wanted to build new homes off Black Rock Road, the county could require the road to be widened, but otherwise there is no funding for such a project, he said.

In regard to the crumbling of the road edge, Kroboth said such conditions are not uncommon in rural areas because of a declining distribution of highway user revenue from the state to the counties to perform highway maintenance.

"Obviously, our highway department responds to all kinds of inquiries and will deal with the issue if it presents an immediate safety issue," Kroboth said.

He said he would send someone to investigate the situation.

-- 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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