Route 24 mess explained -- sort of
Two days before Christmas, hundreds of motorists in Harford County found out that the Grinch has taken up a new career in traffic engineering when they became trapped in strip mall parking lot off Route 24 in Abingdon for involuntary stays of two hours or more.
According to a Maryland State Police duty officer, the lot at the Constant Friendship Shopping center was jammed by a influx of holiday shoppers that overwhelmed the capacity of the single exit onto Tollgate Road just off 24.
Maryland Transportation Authority
A reader in Abingdon thought structural changes to Route 24 could be the problem. Here’s the message:
I think the intersection at Route 24 and Tollgate/Emmorton Road is working well, except for one change they made:
- Traffic from Tollgate Road headed south onto Route 24 no longer have their own lane that continues from Tollgate onto Route 24 without stopping.
They took away that special lane by expanding Route 24 (heading south) from two to three lanes just before that intersection. BIG mistake! I live off Tollgate and even before 7am on workday mornings, it is backed up on Tollgate past Constant Friendship Blvd and up the next hill. I now go to Singer Road and get on Route 24 heading south to avoid the backups on Tollgate.
What I don't understand is they kept the special lane for cars heading north on Route 24 that turn right on Emmorton Road without stopping, so why didn't they keep it on the other side?
I first asked the State Highway Administration for information because 24 is generally under its jurisdiction. But the SHA pointed make to the Maryland Transportation Authority because the road work affecting that area is part of the toll authority's project to improve the interchange at Interstate 95 and 24 to create better traffic flow on northbound I-95. (The interstate in that area is part of the tolled John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway.)
Authority spokeswoman Teri Moss graciously provided a detailed explanation of the project and its affect on traffic in the area:
We thank your reader for the input and apologize for the delay experienced on December 23, which was most likely caused by the additional holiday shopping activity in the area. Please know that our public outreach efforts since the beginning of the I-95/MD 24 Improvement Project cautioned residents that delays should be anticipated approaching this intersection, especially during this phase of construction and during peak-travel times. In addition, we have suggested motorists allow extra travel time, especially in the area of adjacent shopping centers that are more congested during the holidays.
As you may be aware, the new temporary intersection and traffic pattern are required for construction of the new interchange and bridge at MD 24 and MD 924 (Emmorton Road) and Tollgate Road. Although this traffic pattern has resulted in additional delays, the end result will greatly improve traffic flow and increase safety.
The lane configuration on northbound Tollgate Road prior to MD 24 is as follows:
• Right lane - right turn onto southbound MD 24 and thru to Emmorton Road
• Center lane – thru to Emmorton and left to northbound MD 24
• Left lane – left onto northbound MD 24.
Motorists in the right lane are permitted to turn right on red and traffic engineers have indicated that nearly half of the motorists in the right lane so make the right turn on red. Also, to maximize traffic thru-put on southbound MD 24, a third lane was added past the intersection. This configuration addresses the heavy traffic demand on MD 24
As your reader indicates, there is no “special” ramp lane from northbound Tollgate Road to southbound MD 24 as there is a “special” lane from northbound MD 24 to northbound Emmorton Road. The right turn dedicated lane from northbound Tollgate Road to southbound MD 24 was removed and other lane configurations have been adjusted as needed to allow for the new bridge/interchange construction while maximizing capacity on MD 24.
Project design has accounted for the amount of pavement width needed to construct the new roadway, as well as the impact of queued traffic on other intersections on MD 24. If we didn’t maintain adequate thru lanes on southbound MD 24, traffic on Tollgate Road and nearby intersections would be gridlocked by significant back-ups on MD 24.
The right turn lane to northbound Emmorton Road from northbound MD 24 existed prior to construction. Construction design did not necessitate the removal of this dedicated lane.
Please note northbound Tollgate Road traffic is heaviest from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. with the majority of motorists turning right during those two hours. The rest of the day, the majority of motorists are either turning left onto northbound MD 24 or heading toward Emmorton Road.
Once the project is complete (anticipated in late 2011), delays will be minimized as traffic turning right from northbound Tollgate Road to southbound MD 24 will no longer have to compete with MD 24 thru traffic. Motorists traveling on northbound and southbound MD 24 will utilize the new bridge overpass and bypass the intersection. The attached rendering shows the future interchange.
Again, we understand motorists’ concerns regarding delays during the project and suggest they allow additional travel time, especially in the morning peak periods, and if possible, to use alternate routes as your reader suggested. As you are aware, we work to minimize impacts as much as possible and appreciate motorists continued patience. Information on the project is available at mdta.maryland.gov.
I'm not going to pretend any familiarity with this shopping center because I don't get out to Harford all that often, but from examining a satellite image on Google Maps, it appears to be a traffic nightmare waiting to happen. You have several big-box stores surrounded by ample parking with only Constant Friendship Boulevard to let people out. It's easy to see that an exit directly from Constant Friendship would join 24 too close to 24. But why planners didn't insist the developers create a second exit onto Winters Run Road -- at least temporarily -- is beyond me. The core problem here appears to be sprawl run amok. Once that happens, it's difficult to fix.
Anyone up that way want to set me straight?