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Sandy Hook residents skeptical about U.S. 340/Keep Tryst Road project

Some say project would make intersection more dangerous

September 06, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • The center median is being reconstructed to allow vehicles to turn left onto Keep Tryst Road from westbound U.S. 340.
By Kevin G. Gilbert / Staff Photographer

A Maryland State Highway Administration project intended to reduce traffic congestion on U.S. 340 near Keep Tryst Road might do more harm than good, according to some Sandy Hook area residents.

The project involves creating a left-turn lane from U.S. 340 westbound onto the east end of Keep Tryst Road, Heather Keels, the SHA district community liaison, said Thursday.

Keep Tryst Road intersects with U.S. 340 in two locations, one east of Rohrersville Road, or Md. 67, and one west of the road. Currently, U.S. 340 westbound traffic can turn left onto Keep Tryst Road only at its west end, and can turn right only onto the road at its east end.

“In the evenings, the queue for that left turn gets very long, with backups sometimes exceeding the length of the turn lane,” Keels said in an email. “Allowing westbound traffic to access Keep Tryst Road at its east end will provide the community with quicker and more convenient access and relieve pressure on the western Keep Tryst/Valley Road intersection.”

But some residents who live on the road are skeptical about what the project would achieve.

Jim Downing, 56, who lives in the 19300 block of Keep Tryst Road, said the work being done could make the road more dangerous, because vehicles would be turning left across U.S. 340 with high-speed traffic coming the other way.

“We’re very concerned this is going to create more opportunities for accidents,” he said. “We think it’s going to create a significant hazard.”

Downing also expressed concern that more motorists would begin to use Keep Tryst Road to cut around the traffic congestion on U.S. 340 before getting back on Keep Tryst at its west end. He said that turning right onto U.S. 340 could become more dangerous.

“It’s hard enough to get onto U.S. 340 from Keep Tryst as it is, and adding the intersection will make it harder,” he said.

Keels said SHA engineers analyzed the benefits and risks of the project.

“Studies show there is adequate sight distance to allow a safe left-turn at this location, but, as with any time a new turn movement is introduced, there is some risk of increased crashes,” she said.

Keels noted that left turns onto U.S. 340 will not be allowed, and there is a proposal to keep U.S. 340 eastbound at one lane until it crosses the east end of Keep Tryst Road. That way, traffic turning left would have to cross only one lane instead of two.

The road is currently one lane in the area due to construction.

Downing said that he was upset he was not informed about the project before it began.

But Keels said the SHA presented a proposal to allow left turns at a community meeting two years ago.

The SHA has scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Brownsville Church of the Brethren on Rohrersville Road, where attendees can learn more about the project.

“We’ve worked very closely with the Sandy Hook community to address the traffic issues in the area, and we want to continue that line of communication,” Keels said.

The Citizens for the Preservation of Pleasant Valley group was informed about the meeting,  and its president, Eric Whitenton, said the organization hopes to learn more about the project.

“There’s a number of opinions that people have, but we want to find out more details of what they’re doing,” he said.

Whitenton said it is still possible for the organization to take a stand on the issue.

“We’ll have to see how people respond,” he said. “Generally, there has to be a pretty good consensus until we take a stand on something.”


Backup, safety concerns

Pleasant Valley citizens group member A. J. Nicolosi, 61, said that the lane will not do much for the congestion, because a short distance from the project motorists can exit onto Rohrersville Road, get back onto U.S. 340 going eastbound and turn right onto Keep Tryst Road.

“Doing something with this intersection or doing something with the other intersection is not going to address the traffic backups,” he said.

Nicolosi said that the change will cause more traffic on Keep Tryst Road, which he noted will require more money to be spent on the road’s upkeep.

He said an alternative could be to add a shoulder lane on the other side of U.S. 340 so traffic could get to Rohrersville Road quicker.

Nancy Nicolosi, 56, said safety is her biggest concern, as are nonresidents of the area using the road. She listed Appalachian Trail hikers who cross Keep Tryst Road as people that could be affected by the traffic.

She said there needs to be better speeding enforcement in the area, especially with the new left-turn lane.

“They can put all the signs they want up here, but it won’t work if there’s no enforcement,” she said.

Downing and the Nicolosis said accidents are a problem in the area, but Keels said the project was a “mobility concern” and not a response to crashes.

A woman was flown to R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore on Tuesday following an accident there.

Attempts to obtain the number of accidents in that area in the past year from the SHA and Maryland State Police were not immediately successful.

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