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Residents say blinking light at Silo Hill Road and Route 140 not enough

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(5/4) Emmitsburg residents have been asking the state for years to install stoplights or a traffic circle at the intersection of Silo Hill Road and Md. Route 140. They may soon receive validation for their efforts.

Two crashes in the last several weeks at the intersection — where flashing red and yellow lights now control traffic — have prompted the Maryland State Highway Administration to conduct another traffic study and signal analysis there. The study and analysis began at the end of last week and will be wrapped up by the end of May, state highway spokeswoman Kellie Boulware said. The state conducted its last study of the intersection in 2003.

Town resident Catherine Forrence sent pictures of a recent crash at the intersection to state highway officials and asked them to reconsider stoplights or a traffic circle there.

Boulware said she got the photos and that ‘‘definitely any citizen feedback we get helps us make decision, as they oversee the traffic in Emmitsburg."

Claudia Hawkins, who has a clear view of the intersection from her home, said it is dangerous, and stoplights are definitely warranted.

‘‘It’s chaotic," Hawkins said. ‘‘Most of the time, people don’t even pay attention. Nobody quite knows who has the right of way, and now that traffic has been re-routed from Seton Avenue, there is much more traffic coming through. You almost have to say a little prayer every time you cross."

Hawkins said she had witnessed several accidents there — three in the last month and a half. One boy involved in an accident at the intersection had to be flown from the scene by helicopter, she said.

‘‘I sit by the window at my desk, and I automatically jump when I hear a bang," she said.

Hawkins’ neighbor, former town commissioner Art Elder, said the flashing lights at the intersection now ‘‘are a waste of time and money," and agreed that a stoplight or traffic circle would help solve the problem.

Elder said the situation has gotten much worse since traffic was re-routed from Seton Avenue to accommodate construction on Tom’s Creek Bridge. U.S. Route 15 South is no longer accessible from South Seton Avenue.

In addition, ‘‘anybody in town that wants to go north is going to have to go through this intersection," Elder said.

Martin Miller and Carolyn Eyler, who also live in the neighborhood, said they had been trying for years to get the state to put a stoplight at the intersection. They think the state traditionally neglects Emmitsburg.

‘‘It’s because we’re in northern Frederick County," Eyler said.

The SHA’s decision for controlling traffic through the intersection should come shortly after the study is concluded at the end of May, Boulware said. The decision will take into account data from the study, as well as development in the area, commercial businesses nearby and pedestrian use. The study will be conducted at all hours of the day.

Typically a new stoplight costs about $100,000. In this case, expenses might be less.

‘‘Since there is an existing signal there, it might be warranted to just convert it to a stoplight," Boulware said.

Town Commissioner Chris Staiger said in an e-mail Wednesday that he has already begun to work with some residents who are pursuing a traffic circle or roundabout if the state does not approve a stoplight.

‘‘For years the commission has been told that [the state] will not approve a light because the traffic volume is not high enough – shouldn’t the ‘accident volume’ be a better indicator?" he said.

The State Highway Administration welcomes feedback from residents. Contact John Concannon, assistant district engineer for traffic, at 301-624-8141. Mail written comments to State Highway Administration, Attn: John Concannon, 5111 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick, MD 21704.

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