Hurlock Council put brakes on four-way stop intersection

Hurlock, Maryland
HURLOCK — Only a dozen or so Hurlock residents showed up at a Sept. 9 town meeting to voice their opinions on the State Highway Administration (SHA) proposal to install four-way stop signs at the intersection of Routes 392 and 331. The first notice of the meeting was a Sept. 4 Facebook post on Mayor Joyce Spratt’s page and a message on the town bulletin board that neglected to mention the date. The second notice was a tantalizing Sept. 5 post on the Mayor’s Facebook page that offered attendees an “education” on a new business for the Industrial Park.

The subject of study and discussion for some years, the town first requested a traffic light. SHA Engineer Donnie Drewer attended town meetings to listen to suggestions and offer solutions. An engineering study for a traffic light revealed there were not enough accidents or sufficient traffic for a light. A roundabout was also nixed for lack of room.

Last year, SHA installed two flashing red lights on the 392 stop sign with advance warning signs prior to the intersection. Mr. Drewer came to a Town Council meeting in July to again discuss the town’s concerns and suggested after much study and discussion the engineers believed a four-way stop system would work. He said they could install it quickly and review the results after a year and asked for council approval of the plan before proceeding. At the time the council agreed to vote only after hearing feedback from citizens.

Mayor Joyce Spratt said, “The reason for the meeting tonight is kind of two-fold. We’re going to talk about the blinker light and what SHA recommended.” She said feedback to the town office has indicated no one in favor, including the Hurlock Volunteer Fire Company.

Police Chief Mike Henry said he reviewed the SHA study completed in 2013 and examined recent accidents. In 2014 there was one accident involving a vehicle traveling westbound on 392 that hit another vehicle head-on. This year there were two: One was failure to stop and yield; the other was a tractor-trailer that knocked a pole down trying to turn.

“I’m against a traffic light to begin with,” he said, and “I’m not a big fan of the four-way stop without seeing any diagrams for improvements there.” He noted the difficulty when large trucks turn in front of stopped traffic and said crosswalks in all directions may be confusing. He recommended writing on the road prior to the intersection; rumble strips; reducing the speed limit from 30mph to 25mph in all four directions approaching the intersection; and ensuring that the overhead blinking light which now causes visual obstruction is adjusted.

One resident said “people don’t stop at the light now so a four-way stop isn’t going to accomplish anything. All it will do is congest Main Street for neighbors trying to get in and out of their driveways.”
Fire department members said a four-way stop will cause a lot of problems.

“This is what we want to hear,” said Mayor Spratt, “and we have been hearing this all over town. My recommendation is that we just send a letter to SHA and tell them we are not in favor of it.”

A resident who attended the July meeting said it “sounded like a good idea to me. Has the state given you guys any guidelines as to how they would modify that intersection to accommodate a four-way stop? If they haven’t you should ask for that before you make a decision.” He suggested a 25mph speed limit throughout the town. He noted that with a four-way stop most of the accidents would be low impact. In other words, first answer the question “what will the state do to make it (four-way stop) a safe intersection for all concerned?”

According to Councilman Earl Murphy, “I don’t believe SHA is taking into consideration some of the concerns we’re hearing as council people. Do we want to go another year and yet another study?” He noted that both Police Chief Henry and the fire company are against the four-way stop.

Town Administrator John Avery explained that “Mr. Drewer said he would work with what the town wanted.” He suggested a meeting with Mr. Drewer, Chief Henry and a fire department representative to review the new suggestions before a council decision. Mayor Spratt said, “We’re not going to do anything until we’re sure we’re making the right decision.”

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