bridge

The problem of trucks getting stuck beneath the CSX bridge over Md. 75 has been ongoing for years.

ANNAPOLIS — A $10,000 fine was not fine with members of Maryland’s House Environment and Transportation Committee.

At least not yet.

After negotiations involving Delegates Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, and William Folden, R-District 3B, and Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel, chairwoman of the transportation subcommittee, the bill was pulled until at least next year. The meetings also included representatives from the Maryland State Highway Administration and the Maryland Motor Truck Association, Afzali said.

“The committee was nervous about raising the fines because they felt that it was going to start a whole piggyback effect of other communities saying they wanted to raise the fines on this road or that road,” Afzali said Tuesday.

The bill was voted down by the committee on Monday.

Lawmakers introduced the bill, steep fine and all, in response to continued delays and damage along Green Valley Road near Monrovia that occur when trucks that are too big try to squeeze through a low-slung railroad bridge.

For the next year, county lawmakers will focus efforts on other ways to improve the roadway, Afzali said. If that’s not successful, they might try for a bill again in 2017.

For now, the State Highway Administration has agreed to add more signage to the road, particularly near access points at Fingerboard Road (Md. 80) and near I-70. The agency has already spent $300,000 to install large signs, flashing lights and sensors to deter oversize trucks.

The truckers’ association will work with the nearby Costco warehouse off of Intercoastal Drive — where most of the stuck trucks are headed to or coming from — to hand out directions to drivers who come with deliveries.

Afzali said she will also try to work with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office to increase patrols during high-traffic hours, and with Costco and others to move up construction of planned turnarounds near the bridge.

Costco has given $150,000, and the Maryland State Highway Administration has identified a space to construct a turnaround on the north side. Conversations about improvement on the south side are continuing.

“If we can work with the private sector to get them involved to help with the turnaround,” Afzali said, “so that way, if all the other measures have failed, if the trucks are still going, at least they will have a way to turn around. Right now, they don’t really have a way to turn around.”

If a full-court press on those issues fails, Afzali is interested in re-introducing the bill in 2017.

“We’re going to give it all a year to see if we can solve it. And if we can’t solve it, then we come back next year,” she said.

Folden sat in on the discussions about pulling the bill, but didn’t put his support behind the measure, which was supported by the seven other members of the Frederick County delegation.

“It was going to fail because the crime didn’t fit the time,” Folden said.

He said the renewed push will be a step in the right direction.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(70) comments

DickD

Having read all the comments, please let me sum it up. We know the State will not do anything for at least a year, probably more like 5 or ten years, if ever. It would cost a lot to re-engineer and make the underpass acceptable, no sense in arguing the amounts until and if a study is made by a professional engineer. There currently is no turn around and none in the works. There are instances where a truck is needed to be used on the road by residents or those with work on the road. Those are the facts as I know them.

What can we do to alleviate the problem until a long term solution is reached? We can restrict the road for all trucks, something Steve and Kelly have discussed. That leaves the ones with a local need to use trucks on the road, let them apply for a special exception to use the road and make them sign off on all the road and bridge restrictions. Who in the SHA has that authority?

flynnd

If the bridge restriction is addressed without addressing the slope on the turn at Ed McClain Road, you are going to be killing more people there (yes, there have been fatalities), instead of dealing with damaged and stuck trucks. The whole road is not designed for that type of traffic, not just the bridge - especially so during inclement weather, or for even slightly speeding vehicles. The height restriction is a blessing in disguise if it keeps any trucks away from 75 at Ed McClain. If the bridge is changed, it should not be done without first addressing this issue. To do otherwise would be to choose to be negligent. Personally, I'd stop commuting through there, regardless of the inconvenience, for my own safety if only the bridge was addressed.

hayduke2

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Obviously, you are very much aware of the area and your comments state the obvious to those of us who live there.

amandaklittle

$300,000 spent on signs and flashing lights... Can we not fix the road and/or bridge with that money?? Either raise the bridge or lower the road. This is not rocket science.

hayduke2

Neither are practical solutions for the location of this bridge.

KellyAlzan

I'm pretty confident that the grade under the bridge can be lowered by at least 6-inches. And that would make a huge difference.

gary4books

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

hayduke2

You are aware that two streams run under that grade and the approach and exit are not straight shots.

stevemckay

Exactly. Even if you could lower the road, semi-trailers going through those two 90-degree curves would be forced into the opposing lane on blind curves. The road is simply not suitable for large trucks.

KellyAlzan

I have been to the site. I'm aware of all the logistics. I am talking about lowering 6-inches, not excavating for new bridge supports. You remove the asphalt. You excavate 6". You then excavate for the base for the new asphalt. Install the base. Install new asphalt.

KellyAlzan

Steve - the issue at hand is the low bridge. Not the turn. tractor trailer trucks pass through the bridge daily; they're just not all box trailers.

Many roads exist that are in operation with tight turns.

is it the low bridge you have an issue with?

or is it the trucks existence on that road? I've lived in Frederick county since 1974 (no, that's not when I was born), and there have not been any ongoing major issues with trucks on that road. Now Route 75 between at the turn by Beaver Dam Road - yes, there are ongoing truck accidents. But 75 in Monrovia - there are not ongoing problems.

KellyAlzan

Also Steve, Route 85 at Dickerson has a sharp 90-degree turn, and a higher speed limit. Like I said, such conditions DO exist :)

KellyAlzan

MD 97 on the north side of Olney also has a 90-degree turn

And I believe Rt 32 near the quarry right over the Carroll county line has a tight turn.

KellyAlzan

I believe rt 17 between Middletown and myersville has a tight turn.

And in Washington county, Rt 34 by the Brethren Nursing home has a really tight turn.

stevemckay

Kelly - the issue has always been about large trucks on the road. That's why SHA put the restriction based on length & width. Based on the posted size limits, a truck violating the restriction is either too tall, unsafe on those curves, or both.

Fredmd21704

don't tell Kelly that, she knows everything!

gary4books

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

petersamuel

We need to get rid of this low bridge. A punitive approach to a truck driver and company that have already suffered heavy loss from the accident is unfair and unproductive.

KellyAlzan

Yep. That bridge will sooner or later need to be addressed and contended with as that area is developed and traffic grows. No one wants to hear this, and I'm not happy about the growth coming to Monrovia. But it's inevitable.

stevemckay

Getting rid of that bridge will cost upwards of a hundred million, as part of a $260-$500 million reconstruct of MD 75. The state has said many times that there is no money for it. The developers contributions toward the project are insignificant. I don't my tax dollars going toward the project just to help facilitate more development and create a truck bypass route around Frederick.

hayduke2

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

KellyAlzan

I agree Steve.

But it's coming. Not tomorrow. Not soon.

gary4books

I would like to see an engineering report with that money . It seems way too high. Lowering the road should be even less expensive. How about a study to show options and costs?

stevemckay

Let's look at this a different way and let's focus on the trucks that create the problem - full size box semi-trailers. If that truck is coming north on 355 thru Hyattstown, then the driver has already violated the weight restriction on that road. If they turn north on 75, then they have chosen to ignore the restriction warning sign because that truck will be over the length limit. The driver will choose to ignore that sign because he/she will think they can slowly navigate the turns that might be the reason for the restriction. Either way, they've chosen to ignore that sign. Two thirds of the way to 80, they'll see that sign again and have another opportunity to heed or ignore it. They'll see that sign again thru the intersection at 80. At that point, they've ignored the restriction signs three times stating that they're over length for the road because they'll think they can manage it and they won't get caught. As they head toward the post office, then the oh crap moment - not only are they over length but they are also over height and can't get to Intercoastal Drive. By then, of course, unless they react very quickly and stop in the extra lane between Nevets and the post office, they are in trouble.

I agree that the signs need to be clearer about the height restriction. I also agree with the need to limit length through the turns also. What's clear, however, is that for a truck to take that path from Hyattstown, the driver has chosen to repeatedly violate posted restrictions. They may have made that decision based on imperfect information and their own assumptions, but the fact remains that they decided to ignore the restriction. That's why I think we need both better signs and higher fines.

KellyAlzan

In terms of weight restrictions, Steve, yiu need to realize that 355 does not have a weight restriction per say.

The weight signs for 355 say "NO THRU....."

Keyword being "thru".

This means you can not traverse on the road, street, or highway for the entire distance. In other words to jump off of I-270 and then turn onto 75 north is allowed by law.

With our business, it's my job to read the truck signs. The words I'm looking for are "no trucks...." Period. And I'm looking for the word "THRU". If I see the word "thru", then we're ok and we carry on. If it says no trucks period (exceeding an allowable weight or other restriction), then we must find an alternate route.

So again, keyword is "thru"

stevemckay

Good point about the thru notation, I'll have to take another look. I thought the weight concern was actually Hyattstown itself.

KellyAlzan

Nope, its not hyattstown. Anywhere there's commercial and industrial businesses, along with farms - you virtually never see weight restrictions, that would be counter-productive

Fredmd21704

the sign states height and weight restriction, height restriction 10 foot 2 inches, weight restriction 5 tons. surely you can read the signs, right?

KellyAlzan

Keep in mind that commercial businesses are all up and down 355. Rentals Unlimited head quarters. Pleasants excavating. metro Ground Covers. Johns labor Group. There are (2)? Landscape companies. Long Fence. Many farms (milk haulers,
Etc), in industrial park.

With that said - there are probably (2) tractor trailers legally using 355 at or near hyattstown as you read this.

Unless there are pipes under the road, or a weight restricted bridge, seldom is truck traffic not allowed at all. If you're moving to CA you gotta be able to get a 48' mayflower moving rig to your driveway.

KellyAlzan

Furthermore, the thru weight restriction for that portion of 355 is to keep trucks from dodging the 270 scales. It is in no way shape or form to keep local trucks off of 355. Not to keep trucks off of Rt 75.

Think about all those communities along 75. They were not developed and the basements were not dug with shovels. Pan graders were brought in. 943 loaders were brought in. Scrapers were brought in. End dumps were brought in. Cranes came to set the roof trusses. Concrete trucks came to pour the foundations and basements.

hayduke2

The bridge is not the only problem with box trucks as anyone who lives in the area. Kelly has decided that he is the only one with knowledge of the issue. Yes, there were milk trucks, Hahn trucks, dump trucks and others that use 75 but the road is not and was not ever designed for heavy vehicle traffic. Replacing the bridge somehow is a false approach to the issue.

DickD

Maybe if we throw them in jail for causing accidents and being a party of homicide in case someone dies there.

stevemckay

The driver of the truck that killed the two men in 2013 is serving time - rightly so.

KellyAlzan

correct. but that incident does not warrant the changes that you want, steve. The fatalities involving trucks on that road have been minimal

hayduke2

How many fatalities are too many?

KellyAlzan

As you drive north on I-95, near Fredericksburg Va, there is an exit. You get on the exit and surprise there's a weight restriction for trucks. Ok but don't panic - they also DO provide a "TRUCK TURN-AROUND".....

Fredmd21704

as you drive on route 70 and 270, you are smacked with height restriction signs for route 75. SO what do you, ignore the sign, or obey the sign? Yes, signs are posted on both route 70 and route 270 about Route 75. open your eyes!

KellyAlzan

No signs on route 70. There are signs on 75 south, as yiu drive towards the commuter lot.

No signs at all regarding truck height in I-270 nor on route 355.

You are posting incorrect stuff. I suggest you drive the routes and see for yourself. I drive 270 every day. Not a single sign for 75 north height restriction.

Watch the video. It even has captions:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=L71NgmfaeoA

KellyAlzan

75 north has length and width restriction signs. As shown in the video. The first height restriction is not till you get to the Monrovia post office :)

You may argue with me till you're blue in the face. You can put me down in every way you can think of! I didn't create the facts. I've driven the route specifically to identify the signage. And I shot video :)

Fredmd21704

you are mistaken, because as you approach the Monrovia exit, the first sign is there, as you take the exit, the 2nd sign is there, how about you actually go drive it. Your video shows route 355, and clearly there are signs there too. everyone who drives this knows you are full or yourself.

KellyAlzan

For those whom have not seen this, Below is a YouTube video showing the deficient signage coming from Rt 355 and traversing North bound on Rt 75. The video is proof as to WHY this issue is occurring. Check it out

KellyAlzan

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=L71NgmfaeoA

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KellyAlzan

You are correct.

But you need to keep in mind if the fact that the majority of the stuck trucks are north bound on Rt 75. That's the whole point you dough doo bird!!

Very seldom are the stuck trucks south bound.

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KellyAlzan

Correction:
Not "if the fact".

Should read: in fact

Comment deleted.
KellyAlzan

And since you "clearly" don't know what the signs say - I suggest you pause the video so you can read the signs :)

Have a great day!

Comment deleted.
hayduke2

Kelly thinks his video is worthy of an Academy Award and he won't be swayed by any arguments other than his own. I turned away two trucks that were on Ed McClain Road and about to turn N onto to 75 this week alone. I also flagged one truck that was Southbound on 75 two days ago. He ignored the wind chimes and only braked after the flashing lights.

Fredmd21704

your video is a fraud as you approach the 75 exit from 355, the sign mysteriously goes blurry then clears up again, nice try. Signs are on 355, 75, 270, and 70 in both directions.

Comment deleted.
KellyAlzan

Duh
The issue at hand is OVERHEIGHT trucks.

So watch the video again and tell us what the "warning signs" say......

Fredmd21704

again, the signs have weight and height restrictions listed. height restriction 10 foot 2 inches, weight restriction 5 tons. yeah, you keep not reading those signs.

stevemckay

Unfortunately, I wasn't surprised by this outcome. Although, we got their attention, and I could see the concerns had registered with many of the Delegates when I testified a few Friday's ago, the sticker shock was too high. So now we have a year to see if the situation improves with the various measures being discussed. I talked to Delegate Afzali about the sign issue. I understand the reason behind SHA's focus on the length & width warning signs, but I urged her to tell them to add the height restriction. Truckers need to know - in no uncertain terms - that there is a low bridge ahead, and they need to know in time to turn around or avoid the road altogether.

The status on the turn-arounds is pretty vague in my mind. I've heard different versions on whether one on the north or south will happen first. I've also heard that Costco has been slow in their part of the job. That needs to change and change soon.

Mr. Campion, the lobbyist from the MD Motor Truck Association that spoke against the bill and argued for more involvement by truckers and Costco, will now be able to put up or shut up. He gets to help urge Costco to better educate their drivers. We'll see ...

If none of this works, we'll go back stronger next year and we've been promised more support from the Transportation Committee when we do. Ultimately, I'll be happy if we don't have to. I'll be happy if the problem gets fixed - but I'm not holding my breath.

KellyAlzan

There really is a psychology to all this. That is, as long as there is no adequate truck turn around.

See, people are blaming CostCo. That's understandable to a point.

Now here's the psychology:
The majority of the stuck trucks are deriving from 355; meaning they're northbound on 76; meaning they are ENROUTE to Costco (if Costco is their destination). So they are inbound trucks, who have not technically had contact with Costco. So it's very difficult for Costco to steer inbound trucks away from using 75 north. Outbound trucks is a whole different story as the driver is standing on the Costco property and can be told face to face and can be handed a flyer.

The other aspect of the psychology is that many use GPS. You don't review the roads you're about to take. You type in the destination address and you're off. So even if inbound trucks were instructed to stay off of 75 north - because of relying on GPS - I do not believe such instructions would be heeded.

This proposed bill was a waste of time and I had no doubt it would not happen.

These desk jockey career politicians need to slow down and put thought and psychology into the issue.

It's a serious issue. A stuck truck can be a matter of life or death in the event a rescue vehicle needed to pass under the bridge to respond to a call. Kathy did not listen, she has seen my comments here, she read the email and watched the video I sent her. the time she spent on this bill and the time spent on the hearing is time that should have been spent on coming up with an intelligent solution.

stevemckay

You know Kelly, if you're not being heard, then maybe you should change how you communicate. I don't think any of this was a waste of time - not Kathy's, not mine, and not the other local residents that wrote letters in support of the bill. The fine requested was too high - for now - but it got their attention and it's become leverage with SHA to readdress the sign issue. I agree with your point about height signage and I'm going to continue follow up with Kathy and SHA on that point. As for gps, isn't it true that the more expensive truckers gps shows the bridge restriction? So how do you enforce what system they use? I agree that the problem is trucks inbound to Costco so I'm skeptical that their leaflets will do much good. As for turn arounds, until I see a design for down there that enables a truck to accomplish that reversal without needing to stop traffic, then I'm skeptical how much that will help. I'm also not holding my breath that any will be built in the next year.

stevemckay

Me retired? Lol, no. I have a full-time career and a long commute to northern VA every day. RALE is simply my second (no pay) job.

KellyAlzan

And Steve, as long as there is no turn around and as long as the warning signage remains deficient - it does not matter if the fine is $1,000 or $12,500. The damage done to a trailer is in excess of $20k. No driver wants that to happen.

As I said to you the other week - the fine issue is premature at this point. Fines are after the fact, truck gets stuck, and is issued a fine; that won't do anything for the people trying to get from point A to point B while the truck is stuck. And after destroying a trailer and getting fired - that driver will never use that road again, even if a fine was not issued.

First things first. Address the deficient signage. Address how the trucks will get turned around. THEN.....address the fines.

stevemckay

Listen, I really think we agree on more than we disagree. I read your posts because I respect your opinion. However, you need to understand that Kathy invested her time on this issue because we in community asked her. We brought it to her, urged her to support the idea and have put a lot of our own time into the effort. The bill didn't succeed but I don't think it was wasted time. SHA thought they were done, now they know they aren't.

KellyAlzan

Oh, I thought you are retired.

Well, if you want an effective solution, then I suggest you hear what I write. It may not be what you has your mind set on, which is why you appear agitated at some of my posts about the issue.

This is a serious problem. It's been going on for way too long.

It was ME who pointed out the deficient signage. And me who shot video proving it. All these years and not one person, not one, ever realized the signage is deficient.

It was me who first wrote on the FNP comments that turn around a are needed.

And what was discussed at the hearing? The need for turn around a and the need for intelligent placement of height warning signs. Will it completely dissolve them
Problem?? Probably not. But it will certainly scale the problem way down.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run.

stevemckay

Kelly - I'm not agitated. I'm just having a discussion with someone that seems to care about the issue as much as I do.

KellyAlzan

Yep, we're on the same page for the most part.

We contend with truck restrictions on practically a daily basis. It's routine for me. And I almost never think twice about them.

What got me interested in this issue is: a while back I drove southbound on 75 from I-70 in morning traffic. I had been reading about the stuck trucks under the bridge. So as I was driving I was thinking "ok, here we are approaching the infamous bridge, where on earth would a truck turn around". And then I was like "it's a steAdy line of traffic, even if a truck stopped short of the bridge, it's still blocking traffic". As time went by I started looking at the placement of signs. Southbound the signage isn't deficient. The sign with the pipes is alive and well, but it's positioned that a driver who is turning, watching his mirrors as he turns, and shifting gears - does not see until he's made the turn.

It's the northbound where the problem lays. And as soon as I heard Kathy was sponsoring a $10k fine - then when I stopped what I was doing and drove out and shot video, purposely focusing on the northbound.

as soon as I posted the video depicting the deficient signage is when Kathy should have said "wait a minute, this is an engineering issue, not a rogue truck driver issue", and she should have withdrawn her bill and regrouped.

hayduke2

Thanks Steve - I also can't imagine semi's negotiating the turn at the light to head north on 75 given the 90 degree turn and no shoulder to say nothing of the traffic.

b1sellers

“Kathy invested her time on this issue because we in community asked her”
I would posit she spent too much time on the wrong “solution”. Fining the driver $10,000 when the signs are inadequate and there is no way to turn around isn’t the solution. Truckers are not evil – they are hard working men and women trying to do their job.
I agree with Folden: “It was going to fail because the crime didn’t fit the time,” Folden said.”

KellyAlzan

Hayduke milk trucks, construction equipment low boys, and other tractor trailers have negotiated that curve long before you were born. Since the bridge issue has come to light it's like people have suddenly just discovered the curve. The curve is not a new feature :)

KellyAlzan

Thank you B1. My thoughts entirely. Kathy wasted time. I know Steven was workin with Kathy and doesn't feel that way. But she wasted time.

Fredmd21704

I'm surprised, with warnings as far away as on Route 70 and on Route 270, this was a no brainer.

KellyAlzan

No height warnings at all from 270 or 355. None

Fredmd21704

tha tis not true, height restriction signs state 10.2 feet. but I guess you missed that part on the signs. Yes, on route 70 and 270 are height restriction signs for Route 75.

Fredmd21704

Kelly, you have been proven wrong by countless people, already. signs are posted on 270, 70, 355, and route 75 in BOTH DIRECTIONS.

Fredmd21704

"There are no height wRning signs until the post office". oh so now their are? with ample time to turn around, or take another route, you just proved yourself wrong. im done, because you clearly are sore that you keep losing elections. The only person who can fix the bridge is CSX. no one else, not the state, not the county, not the federal government. Want change, petition CSX to fix the bridge.

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KellyAlzan

There are no height wRning signs until the post office. You can pause the video and read it. And if it's still too blurry, you may need to have your eyesight examined.

You're arguing with someone about something that does not exist is not a positive contribution. There are no signs on I-270. None. And if there were to be signs - the drivers would Not see them as traffic is so bad that they must watch the road and cars.

There are no signs on 355. NONE.

You can post as many times as you like saying there are and maybe, just maybe they will appear :)

DickD

Well, more signs might help ,but I doubt it. I still think we should have someone posted there until there is a long term resolution. How much does it cost to post someone there to just watch and stop trucks that cannot make it? How much does it cost us for all the damages, tow trucks, loss time, etc. We need a better solution than just the signs, which have already pro ben not to be effective.

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cldeboin

NO !!

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