Community Issues

Intersection of Harford Rd, Sunshine, Fork Rd

This intersection has been a problem for many years, but with the recent significant increase in traffic, it has become especially dangerous, as well as frustrating when the traffic backs up. The main problem is that both the west approach (Fork Rd) and the east approach (Sunshine) are "officially" a single lane, but many drivers treat it as though there are 2 lanes. From the east on Sunshine, some treat it as if there is a left-turn lane, and the right side is for straight ahead, while others use a left lane for straight ahead. This leads to some conflicts between drivers, thinking that the other is trying to cut them off. From the west on Fork Rd, although there is barely room, many drivers squeeze around those waiting to turn left, thus causing a serious danger to those turning left from Sunshine who think that they have a safe (and legal) left turn.

State highways was asked to look into this situation to determine if a solution, even if only partial, could be found. Their response delivered to the March 2016 community meeting was:

Regarding MD 147 at Fork Road, our Signal Technicians verified that the signal is functioning property, Also, you mention the possibility of installing a left turn lane along Fork Road. Since Fork Road is maintained by the County, please see the attached response from a 2014 study that was completed by the County. Overall, we will continue to monitor traffic operations and signal timing at this intersection. If you have traffic concerns about Fork Road or Sunshine Ave, feel free to contact Mr. Greg Carski, chief of Baltimore County Traffic Engineering.

The County's response was basically that no solution is possible because of the constraints that do not allow space for a left turn lane in either direction of the required number of spaces in the left turn lanes; they claim it needs 4 from the east on Sunshine Ave, and 6 from the west on Fork Rd. In other words, since they cannot accomplish a "perfect" solution, they won't try any improvement. Drivers coming from the east on Sunshine Ave prove every day that there is enough space for separate left turn and straight ahead lanes!

One attendee at the meeting suggested that a traffic engineer should be hired by the community to draw-up a plan which could then be presented to the County as a feasible solution. In order to get a start on this possibility, the following is the basics of such a plan, taking into account the land already owned by the County (and State) that can be used. This idea might provide the impetus to hire a licensed engineer who could confirm, and sign-off on, the following plan.

The red lines are the edge of the currently owned County and state right-of-way. This plan requires (maybe) the acquisition of a small triangle of land in front of the gas station, and maybe by Sunshine Grill. The only impact of Sunshine Grill might be that the free-standing sign needs to be moved, which the county would have to pay for. Otherwise, the County and the State own all of the right-of-way needed. While the number of stacking spaces in the left-turn lane on Fork Rd may not be as many as the "guidelines" call for, they certainly can "bend" the rules in order to provide a much-needed improvement as they obviously did at the Kingsville Triangle 10 years ago, and that they must be doing at the circle on Harford Rd. Notice how the lanes line-up perfectly across the intersection, unlike the terrible alignment at the "Triangle"!

In September 2016, Councilman Kach's office requsted state and county highway personal to again review this situation (and provided them with a link to this page). Their next day response again rejected any idea of doing anything since it can't be done "while still meeting the proper design standards" while agreeing that "the addition of left turn lanes would be beneficial", and provided a copy of the June 11,2014 letter in which they had previously indicated that they would not do anything since there was not enough room for a perfect solution. Note that it claims that there is not even room for a left-turn lane accommodating 4 vehicles on the Sunshine Ave approach. Currently, drivers regularly line-up with more than 4 vehicles in an ad hoc left-turn lane, as shown below.

The County's response noted that the intersection is rated "C" so that "justification for such as expense will be in question". That rating was done in August 2015. The State's most recent rating in April 2015 gave this intersection an "E" in the morning and a "D" in the afternoon. Its 2012 ratings were "E" and "C" respectively. In fact, observing traffic from the west on just about any evening from 5 to 6 shows it backed up sometimes to the Fork Church, a distance of one half mile, something that makes it an "F" intersection.

And it's only going to get much worse as this intersection becomes part of the detour for the Mt Vista Roundabout project, set to being Oct 5.

The following photos show how drivers are actually responding to this lack of the needed left-turn lanes:

East approach (from Sunshine)

Many drivers wanting to go straight through the intersection go into the right "lane", thinking that those in the "left" lane are waiting to turn left (against the oncoming traffic). In many cases, those already properly in the "left" lane are waiting to go straight, waiting for the light to change to green. When the light changes, there is often contention drivers in both "lanes" try to go straight into the single lane on the other side. Luckily, they always seem to be gracious about it and work it out, but this poses an obviously bad situation.

Note that the existing county-owned right-of-way here is 49 ft wide for a distance of 200 ft back from the intersection, certainly enough space for sufficient vehicles to line-up for a left turn ( SHA says 4 needed). For comparison, the Harford Rd right-of-way supporting 3 lanes to the south is only 40 ft wide. (there is even enough existing right-of-way for a dedicated right turn lane.)

West approach (from Fork Rd)

When the front vehicle is waiting to turn left (against oncoming traffic), drivers behind them wanting to go straight or turn right often squeeze around that stopped vehicle on its right, sometimes even going over the curb. This sudden appearance of another vehicle entering the intersection often interrupts west-bound traffic trying to turn left, which should have the right-of-way since they are facing other left-turning traffic. It is unknown whether this has ever resulted in a crash, but near misses have been experienced.

Note that the existing county-owned right-of-way here is 50 ft wide. While the county's online data (which is known to often be wrong) shows this extending 100 ft from the intersection, it actually goes 120+ ft to the Sunshine Grill property (see deed 8309:710, 1989, Fiorini to Baltimore County). While this may not allow space for 6 vehicles to stack waiting to turn left, any number is better than none. A relatively small property acquisition from Sunshine Grill on the north would allow a longer left turn lane.

The changes needed, in order of importance (and reverse order of expense) are:

  1. paint a single line and markings on Sunshine Ave separating and designating the already existing ad hoc lanes
  2. restripe lines and markings on Fork Rd for separate lanes, thus allowing a clear place for those going straight ahead (which some are already doing by sqeezing around others)
  3. install traffic lights to correspond to these designated left-turn lanes
  4. change traffic lights to provide short protected left turns at start of each cycle

Current traffic situation

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Updated 16 Nov 2018 by MAP