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 Emmitsburg Considers Eliminate Parking Spaces in Square to Improve Traffic Flow

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post

(August 2003) - Some parking spaces around Town Square might have to be removed in the interest of better traffic flow.

Town officials and state engineers say traffic backups at the Main Street-Seton Avenue intersection aren’t likely to go away unless some parallel parking spaces are sacrificed to provide room for left-turn lanes. "It’s going to cause problems," said David Haller, the town manager, "but we have to do that."

No one at a recent Town Hall meeting relished the idea of reducing parking, but they hoped they would need to eliminate only seven or eight spaces. Businesses count on them for customer convenience.

"Do we want a downtown that the businesses are all closed up?" asked Patrick Boyle, president of the board of commissioners.

But Mayor Jim Hoover said the board is stuck with determining which is more important to town residents keeping the parking spaces or keeping vehicles moving through town. He said the plan lacked resident support when it was discussed about four years ago, but there could be enough frustration with the problem to require action now.

Mr. Boyle asked about regulating the traffic signal to allow just one direction of traffic to move at a time so turning vehicles won't be impeded by oncoming traffic. John M. Concannon, the State Highway Administration's assistant district engineer for traffic, said that process, known as split-phasing, can be used at the intersection.

However, Mr. Concannon said the best option generally is to use left-turn lanes and split-phasing together.

Though the problem is known, Mr. Concannon said SHA wants to gather new data on the intersection before making a final suggestion. He said the agency would survey the intersection after school starts, and town officials agreed to wait.

The other primary area of concern was the intersection of Main Street and Silo Hill Road. A flashing light should be erected there soon, but the town officials believe a fully operating signal is needed, at least at certain times.

Robert L. Fisher, district engineer, said the last study of that area showed that the traffic volume off Silo Hill Road and other determining factors werenąt great enough to warrant a regular signal. Mr. Hoover asked about having it operate fully only during peak use hours, but Mr. Fisher said that action "ruins driver expectancy" and can lead to accidents.

Commissioner Art Elder, who lives near the intersection, said he doubted the blinking lights would work. " I guarantee that if you put a blinker there," he said, "somebody is going to get killed."

But Mr. Fisher explained that unless there were extraordinary circumstances, SHA could be liable for accidents at an intersection if it installed a traffic signal that wasn’t warranted based on established criteria. Mr. Concannon said SHA will do another study after the blinking light is installed to see how close the intersection is to needing a regular signal. The Emmitsburg officials also inquired about help with traffic around the town’s post office. Mr. Fisher said SHA would work with the town once it decided what traffic pattern it wants.

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