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Monday breakdown: Steep incline at the intersection of Smithsburg Pike (Md. 64) and East Water Street

January 20, 2013
  • This photo shows a Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services vehicle parked along Md. 64 at East Water Street. James Ulrich, chief of Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services, said he has been concerned about the steep incline at the intersection.
Submitted photo

James Ulrich, chief of Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services, said he has been concerned about a steep incline at the intersection of Smithsburg Pike (Md. 64) and East Water Street.

Although there are two guardrails at the intersection, there is no guardrail at the top of the incline along East Water Street where it connects with Smithsburg Pike, Ulrich said.

Motorists heading east on Smithsburg Pike have to make a sharp left-hand turn to get onto East Water Street, Ulrich said.

If motorists are not familiar with making that turn, it can be tricky to negotiate — especially if there is poor visibility — and vehicles have gone into the embankment over the years, Ulrich said.

“It’s sort of been an issue I have been concerned about for some time,” Ulrich said.

Ulrich said he contacted the Maryland State Highway Administration about the incline. Highways workers went to the intersection and made some measurements to determine if a guardrail is needed at the top of the incline, he said.

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Ulrich said the incline “just barely” missed the requirement for a guardrail.

Ulrich, who outlined the issue during a recent Smithsburg Town Council meeting, emphasized that he is not upset with the state highway administration.

Heather Keels, an SHA community liaison, said in an email Friday that careful planning goes into the placement of guardrails to ensure that they are only used where they will “do more good than harm.”

Guardrails are already in place along the western leg of Md. 64, she said in the email.

“At Mr. Ulrich’s request, SHA traffic engineers recently reviewed the area along Md. 64 east of the intersection and confirmed that the slopes along the road in this area are not steep enough that they would be likely to cause a vehicle leaving the roadway to roll over,” Keels wrote in her email, “so adding guardrail would introduce more of a hazard than it would prevent.”

East Water Street is actually a county road, Keels said, noting its designation as Md. 66 on Google Maps is incorrect. Any addition of a guardrail along East Water Street would need to be initiated by Washington County, she said.

“If the county were to add guardrail along the north/east side of East Water Street, it would likely extend along the curve from East Water Street to Md. 64,” Keels said in the email. “... But, based on the slopes, SHA would not add guardrail to this curve alone unless the county added it along East Water Street.”

An attempt to reach a county public works official for comment on the issue was unsuccessful Friday.

— Compiled by Dave McMillion and C.J. Lovelace

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