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Published On: 2/13/13

NEW FOR WEDNESDAY: Public Outcry, Crash Data Leads State To Reverse Earlier Traffic Light Decision

By: Staff Writer via Maryland Coast Dispatch

SNOW HILL -- One troubled intersection in the south end of Worcester County will receive a traffic light by mid-summer, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT).

While MDOT and the State Highway Administration (SHA) had previously opposed a light in favor of installing J-turns, public outcry persuaded MDOT to re-evaluate the need for a traffic signal at the intersection of Routes 113 and 12 near Snow Hill.

The decision was widely lauded by representatives on the Eastern Shore like Delegate Mike McDermott (R-38B), who has stressed in the past the high rate of accidents and fatalities at the intersection.

“For countless years, the citizens of Worcester County and the travelers passing through our area have dealt with the treacherous two lane sections of US Rt. 113,” he wrote in a letter to MDOT prior to their decision to install a light. “Perhaps the worst area of this terrible section of the highway is located at the intersection of Rt. 12 in Snow Hill. The fatalities and serious injury accidents are astounding.”

County Commissioner Virgil Shockley, who represents the Snow Hill area and has been a vocal supporter of a light at the intersection, said he was glad MDOT has changed their minds and will be moving forward with something the Snow Hill community and the county has asked for repeatedly.

“It’s been a long battle. I think the commissioners ended up writing six letters,” he said.

Shockley asserted that was just the tip of the iceberg compared to the letters, calls and emails by other officials and private citizens all asking SHA and MDOT for a traffic light. The turning point came, he continued, during a public meeting in December when members of the Snow Hill community loudly demanded that SHA install a light.

“It was a very intense meeting,” said Shockley. “People’s emotions were raw.”

SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer agreed with Shockley that the December meeting was an informative one for his agency. After several hours of testimony, all of it against the installation of J-turns and in favor of a light, Drewer said that an impression was made and the public comments received attention from everyone at his organization.

“SHA listened to their concerns and we took a second look,” he said.

Upon re-evaluating the intersection of Routes 113 and 12, the SHA concluded that there was enough data to support a light, which MDOT Acting Secretary Darrell Mobley explained in a letter to elected officials dated Feb. 5.

“SHA found that a signal is needed based on projected 2013 traffic counts and current 2012 crash data just obtained from the Maryland State Police,” he wrote. “The temporary traffic signal is a cost effective interim solution that will remain in place until the interchange, the ultimate solution, is complete.”

As much as he supports the traffic light, Shockley agreed with Mobley that an overpass is the best option for calming traffic at the intersection. However, with Route 113 still in the process of being dualized, Shockley was candid about the possibility of getting that interchange any time soon.

“I hope I live long enough to see it,” he said.

In the meantime, Shockley acknowledged that the light will be welcome in Snow Hill and reiterated the need for something, since the intersection is so accident prone.

“Something about that intersection, it just casus panic in people,” he said.

Drewer plans on attending the next County Commissioners meeting on Feb. 19 to discuss SHA’s decision to install a light instead of the expected J-turns at Routes 113 and 12. J-turns are still planned for the nearby intersection at Routes 113 and 365, however.

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