Road Planners Leery About Taking Away Lanes

By Dr. Gridlock
Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wonder why the southbound right lane of Georgia Avenue at Spring Street is not a right-turn-only lane. Since parking is permitted in that lane beyond the light, southbound cars speed up to cut into the middle lane. It does not make sense to allow traffic to continue in that lane if it is blocked by parked cars.

Marilyn Bate Silver Spring

That is a messy merge, and the situation isn't unique to Silver Spring. There are plenty of places in our region where parking rules vary with the time and through-lanes vanish at off-peak hours.

The Georgia Avenue case illustrates some of the complications. In that section of downtown Silver Spring, parking in the right-hand lane is banned during the 6:30-to-9:30 a.m. rush. That's good, since Georgia is a heavily used commuter route. I'd ban parking there at all times, but merchants and their customers like the street parking, even though there's a garage nearby.

How about making the lane right-turn-only to head off cars before they reach those parked vehicles? Well, the timing issue is what blows that idea, says the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The traffic planners want that lane open for rush-hour drivers, and they wouldn't give it up to create a right-turn-only lane for a relatively small number of turners. The idea of having it be right-turn-only at off-peak hours and not at peak has no appeal for them. Their goal, they say, is to get the most vehicles through the area in the most predictable way possible. Drivers don't like surprises.

All right, so how about just putting up some warning signs telling drivers that at certain hours they'll encounter parked cars ahead? The highway administration thinks drivers have enough to distract them in that area without their people putting up extra signs that warn about parking ahead. Some drivers, seeing the warnings but not absorbing the information about the hours, would move left when they didn't have to.

Besides, in reviewing the three-year crash history for that area, the highway administration found that there's not a lot of damage attributable to weaving and merging. So the planners decided it's best to leave it alone.

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