Monday, September 25, 2023

The Lonely Light


We used to joke about some of my dad’s more frequently used expressions. Several had to do with car travel. You’d be out driving around and he’d make a gesture and say, “That’s where the old road used to go.”

I got similar vibes from this post on the Columbia Reddit when someone asked:

Why is there a traffic light on Route 29 by Rivers Edge Road lol? It’s a whole ass highway with a traffic light. Who designed this?

What follows is the sort of discussion you might have around the water cooler or at the bar. Everyone has a piece of the answer, maybe not one hundred percent accurate, but revealing different aspects of the history involved. I found it fascinating, but perhaps that’s because I was raised by someone who wanted me to know where the old road used to go. 

If you’ve lived here a long time, you know that 29 in Howard County used to have many more stop lights than it does today.

Back in the day - there was a lot less traffic and therefore it wasn't so weird to have lights on 29 - and there were a LOT of lights off the top of my head in unexpected places like at 108. About 20 years ago Howard made a concerted effort to remove lights on their portion on 29 and most are removed, so that one which is to hard remove, stands out like a sore thumb. Montgomery on the the other hand did a little of that - but Silver Spring is sitting on 29.  - -  from the Reddit conversation about the Rivers Edge stoplight

My own discovery of the Rivers Edge stoplight came in one frantic moment when I realized I had gone the wrong way on Route 29 while commuting to one of the many schools where I taught. I did think it was oddly placed but was thrilled to have a place to turn around and correct my mistake. I’m sure I looked around and thought, “People live out here? I wonder who lives out here?” I don’t think I pondered it much more than that. 

If you hadn’t lived here very long, it would be easy to encounter that intersection and think, “Why was a traffic light added to a highway?” That’s why I found the conversation on Reddit so interesting, because it revealed a bigger picture: what the road used to look like, and what other portions of the road look like in Montgomery County, for example. 

When I served on the Oakland Mills Village Board we were tasked with guiding the community through various decisions pertaining to a Route 29 widening project. This involved some rerouting of roads that provided access to homes located right off of 29. Holy mackerel, was that ever complicated and contentious! When I read the words “community resistance” in the Reddit conversation I had a rather unpleasant flashback to those days on the Board.

What do you know about Route 29 in Howard County generally, or the Rivers Edge stoplight specifically?  I’m curious.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

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