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Board divided over Silo Hill answer

Richard Fulton
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(7/20) The board of commissioners voted 3-1 on July 15, Commissioner Glenn Blanchard absent, to advise the Maryland State Highway Administration that the town would rather have a stoplight at the Silo Hill intersection than a traffic circle.

The Silo Hill intersection represents a convergence of Silo Hill Road, East Main Street (state Rt. 140), and state Rt. 904F. Westerly, Route 904F takes traffic to the southbound lane of U.S. 15, while Route 140 provides access to the U.S. 15 northbound lane, and continues on to other points. To the east of the intersection, Route 140 serves as the main street through Emmitsburg.

Town staff met with the SHA in June to discuss the possibility of installing a traffic light at the intersection. At that meeting, town representatives were told they could go with a stoplight or a traffic circle (roundabout).

Staiger supports roundabout

Board President Christopher V. Staiger said he could not support the stoplight proposal because it could possibly cause more serious accidents than a roundabout.

He said not only would a stoplight be unlikely to end accidents, but also wrecks would more often be of the "T-bone" type, where vehicles are broadsided by oncoming traffic. Accidents in roundabouts, he believes, tend to be rear-end collisions at slower speeds.

A roundabout could take up to three years, according to SHA, with cost estimates discussed at the town meeting ranging up to nearly $1 million. A light could take six to eight months to install at a much lower cost to the state.

However, Staiger said he believes the multi-year wait for a roundabout would be worth it. "I hate to see a rush to judgment," he told the board, adding, that the SHA said the circle was the safer option. In addition, he noted that there are likely to be severe traffic backups into town caused by the proposed stoplight. "You'll be fighting with backups at two lights in town."

Other board members felt that the three-year estimate for a circle was unrealistic. "We're probably looking at five to ten years," Commissioner Clifford Sweeney said.

Call for stoplight approved

Sweeney, in supporting a traffic light, said, "Safety has to come first. Somebody is going to get killed if something is not done now."

The board also considered the possibility that the town could pursue a circle later, once the light is installed, which SHA apparently indicated was also an option. Staiger said he felt if the light were installed, the circle option might fall by the way.

Members of the public present and board members said that a circle could be made attractive and serve as a gateway to the town, although Sweeney pointed out that the less-than-flat terrain might not be conducive to a circle.

Mayor James E. Hoover said, "There is no doubt a circle could be more attractive and look appealing, the sooner we do it (get a light installed), the safer the intersection will be. "There is a need for something sooner rather than later."

SHA installed a flashing yellow light in 2003 to monitor traffic at the intersection, but even with that, the intersection has still been averaging five reported accidents a year.

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