Traffic Light Surprises Commissioners

SNOW HILL – A new stop light on

Route 113 at the Worcester County Board of Education came as a surprise to Worcester County elected officials and staff.

The Maryland State Highway Administration  (SHA) copied the county on a July 23 letter,
received in Snow Hill July 28, notifying an SHA project manager, “to proceed
with the installation of a new Traffic Control Signal for the subject project
on or before August 1…”

“It was a complete surprise to

us,” said Worcester County Public Works Director John Tustin during Tuesday’s County Commissioner

meeting. “I wanted you to be aware of it before you saw it going up.”

SHA usually notifies Worcester County of impending projects much
earlier in the process and typically goes so far as to send over design

“This one I don’t ever remember
seeing,” Tustin
said. “It kind of came out of the blue.”

When asked why SHA had not
informed Worcester
County of the planned
traffic signal at the Board of Education and the new Worcester Technical School
(WTS), SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer said, “I didn’t see a need. I
figured the Board of Education would notify the commissioners.”

The Worcester County Board of
Education asked SHA to install the traffic signal back in January or February,
Drewer said.

“They had concerns on the
traffic, the students coming to the new school going up there,” Drewer said.
“The traffic analysis warranted a signal.”

The Board of Education did not
formally inform Worcester County of the traffic signal because, according to
Assistant Superintendent for Administration Ed Barber, Worcester County
had a representative present at planning meetings for WTS.

No one at the Board of Education
could remember who that representative was when asked this week. Neither could
county staffers or elected officials.

“I have no problem with the
light. The commissioners have no problem with the light,” said Commission
President Virgil Shockley later. “I don’t have a problem with the Board of
Education asking for the traffic light.”

Shockley was bothered, however,
that the Board of Education entrance was deemed worthy of signalization, when
the dangerous intersection at Routes 113 and 12 near Snow Hill was turned down
for a traffic light.

“There hasn’t been 13 accidents
there, like at 12 and 113, since December 2006,” Shockley said.

Those accidents caused over
$400,000 in damage and sent at least 23 people to the hospital, including one
child who is still experiencing health problems months later, according to

Five or six school buses use the
Routes 12 and 113 intersection everyday, Shockley said.

Just one accident has been
reported at the Board of Education and Route 113 access point recently,
Shockley said. Four school buses travel to and from the current technical high
school, four in the morning and four in the afternoon.

Drewer said that the Board of
Education signal study showed more vehicles going into and coming out of that
site than the traffic that goes through Routes 12 and 113, which warranted a
traffic signal. 

The numbers and other
information from the two signal studies were not made available by SHA by press

“To me this is changing the
rules. I don’t give a damn what he says, this is changing the rules,” Shockley

Some 740 county residents signed
a petition requesting a stoplight at Routes 12 and 113 but no action was taken
on that light.

“My phone is going to be ringing
off the hook with all the effort we put into a light at 12 and 113,” said

Shockley was skeptical that the
Board of Education traffic is any greater than the traffic passing through the
Routes 12 and 113 intersection.

“What is the difference between
last year and this year?” Shockley said.

According to Barber, enrollment
is up at WTS, with some new programs added. He did not have the exact figures.

SHA began work on the new
traffic signal on Wednesday, Aug. 6. The full signal will include a dedicated
left turn lane. The traffic signal will not operate 24 hours a day, according
to Drewer.

“It’ll be on flash for a period
of time,” he said. “It’ll only be operating when school is in session.”

SHA will also install a “red
signal ahead” sign to the north and south of the Board of Education traffic

The traffic light should be in
place and working by September, Drewer said.

“I think there ought to be a
light at the Board of Education,” Shockley said.

As for Routes 12 and 113,
Shockley said, “We’re going to ask again. I’m going to be in their face one
more time.”