The State Highway Administration this week replaced a yield sign with a stop sign along northbound Route 29 at the crossover to access the ramp to westbound Interstate 70. Warning signs and rumble strips also were placed in the southbound lanes.
“I don’t think it changed anything, but it might have made it worse because people are blowing by the stop sign now,” said Lawrence Soto, who was best friends with Andrew Noel, 19, of Ellicott City, who died in a traffic accident near the interchange in July.
Residents said turning left from northbound Route 29 to westbound I-70 is treacherous because motorists must cross the fast-moving southbound traffic.
Noel’s mother, Valerie Noel, presented a 6,000-signature petition to state Department of Transportation officials at an annual meeting Thursday in Ellicott City.
“We come with mixed sentiments — appreciative of what was done by road crews on the eve of this meeting, two months after a fatal accident brought to the forefront the community awareness of this dangerous road —yet skeptical that, when the cameras leave, the flowers on Andrew’s memorial fade, and the reporters go home, that the momentum, and commitment of the SHA, will be lost,” Noel said.
The nearly 50 people who attended the meeting drove up in cars with “Live Like Andrew” bumper stickers and carrying key chains emblazoned with the phrase.
“It’s a good start, but I don’t think it’s adequate,” said Ted Bosse, of Ellicott City, who’s son Josh was best friends with Andrew.
“People sometimes treat stop signs like yield signs and go right by them.”
However, Bosse said the meeting was positive.
“These kids are getting a chance to see that they can change things and that government can work for them,” he said.
Many residents felt there should be other solutions like installing a traffic light with possibly a camera or even closing the ramp altogether.
State transportation officials, led by Transportation Secretary John Porcari, assured residents that intermediate and long-term solutions were being discussed.
“I am very sorry about your loss,” he told Noel. “It’s something that all of us take very seriously.”
Neil Pedersen, administrator of the SHA, said intermediate solutions being discussed included installing flashing warning lights and a speed-limit adjustment. One long-term solution was eliminating the left turn onto the ramp.
“We are continually looking at what we can do from a safety perspective,” he said.
In the meantime, Howard police are expected to increase their enforcement at the interchange.
A long-term engineering study is under way and results are expected later this fall, officials said.
For residents, waiting is the most difficult part.
“There are a tremendous amount of people who use this route,” said Lisa Soto, Lawrence’s mom. “All our lives are endangered every day when we go through here.”