Traffic logjam traps motorists in Harford shopping area
Hundreds of motorists have become trapped in a massive traffic logjam near Abingdon in Harford County after a strip mall parking lot became overwhelmed with vehicles during a late Christmas shopping rush.
Corporal Krysiak (who declined to give his first name), duty officer at the Maryland State Police barracks in Bel Air, said troopers and Harford County sheriff's deputies were summoned this afternoon when motorists could not get out of the parking lot at the Constant Friendship Business Park at Route 24 and Tollgate Road because there was too much traffic for the number of entrances. The shopping area has a BJ's, Target Greatland, Lowes and Regal Cinema.
The massive traffic jam was the subject of calls to talk radio programs in which some shoppers said they had been trapped on the lot for up to seven hours. Krysiak said seven hours was "a bit of an exaggeration" but said some drivers might have had to wait for two hours before getting out.
Krysiak said police started to direct traffic to alleviate the logjam but were called back after citizens called in to complain that they were making the situation worse.
"It's really not the police's problem. We've done what we can," Krysiak said. He added that police called the State Highway Administration to see whether they could change the timing on the lights to ease the backup.
A night duty worker at the SHA Operations Center in Hanover, who declined to give his name, said agency crews responded but determined that changing the lights wouldn't have helped with the problem.
"Anything we could have done there would have made things worse," he said. "There's just no physical remedy."
Krysiak said the backup was an apparent result of a road design flaw at the shopping center, which includes a BJ's Warehouse, a Walmart, a Target and a Lowe's.
"There's only one way in and one way out. It's the way it was constructed," Krysiak said. "It's a mess -- especially if you're at BJ's all the way in the back."
He added that such traffic jams at the center have been a yearly occurrence around Christmas. He could not rule out a repeat on Christmas Eve if more last-minute shoppers flock to the mall.