Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Traffic signal proponents not giving up 3 months after River Road accident that killed 3 (Photos)

Fifty-four residents met in the auditorium at Walt Whitman High School last night, to discuss options for improving safety at an intersection where three died in a February 26 crash. Many were residents of the Bannockburn community, as well as Whitman students and parents. They were joined by Whitman principal Alan Goodwin, Delegate Marc Korman (D-District 16), and representatives from the offices of Congressman Chris Van Hollen and County Councilmember George Leventhal.

Goodwin began the meeting by reflecting on the fact that one of those killed, Thomas Michael Buarque De Macedo, was a senior who should have been crossing the stage at Whitman's graduation ceremony today. He said that with many tragedies, time passes, and people forget, "and we don't want that to happen." Goodwin asked the audience to participate in a moment of silence to remember Thomas, as well as his parents, Michael Buarque De Macedo and Alessandra M. Buarque De Macedo.

Thomas' sister Helena made a "miraculous" physical recovery, Goodwin said, and returned to school after spring break.

Walt Whitman HS
Principal Alan Goodwin
asks for a moment of
silence for the victims
of February's fatal crash
The intersection where the crash took place, River Road at Braeburn Parkway, has been considered unsafe by residents for decades. Some residents had called for a traffic signal there in the past, but were told by the Maryland State Highway Administration that the intersection did not meet the criteria for one.

What measures the SHA has taken to improve safety there, primarily adding paint, have been "inadequate," Goodwin said.

Redoubling their efforts, Bannockburn recently met with SHA engineer Anyesha Mookherjee on April 11, Bannockburn Civic Association Vice President Richard Boltuck said. Mookherjee's intital review concluded once again that the intersection does not meet the criteria for a traffic signal.

Mookherjee has drawn up some non-signal options, which range from closing the intersection at the median altogether, to various turn restrictions that would be regulated by concrete curb dividers in the middle of the intersection.

Boltuck said many want a traffic signal as a fifth option. There is even what Boltuck describes as the "Cadillac option," which would move the entire intersection east to the location of the crosswalk that connects the two pieces of Pyle Road via River Road. Several residents at the meeting said price should be no object.
Map of the area in
question courtesy
Google Maps
Whatever the solution, it needs to be one with wide community support, Boltuck said, which was his reasoning in calling last night's meeting.

A petition started by Whitman junior Melody Lee asking for a traffic signal now has over 4000 signatures. But Mookherjee told signal supporters that a standard traffic light would not have prevented the February collision, unless it had a limited green arrow to prevent left turns against westbound traffic.

Boltuck and Goodwin said closing the intersection altogether is not an option. Boltuck said the SHA has determined that 1/3 of Whitman-related auto traffic reaches or leaves the campus via the River-Braeburn intersection. Goodwin said Whittier Boulevard is already congested around the times the school starts and lets out, as well as during evening activites. Moving all Whitman traffic to Whittier would be "an impractical way to go," Goodwin argued.

The other option would be to route the Braeburn traffic to Whittier via Wilson Lane, Boltuck said.

Total closure was also opposed by some Bannockburn residents in attendance, who say they make turns there to get in and out of their neighborhood, as well as to reach the Capital Beltway. Beth Rogers, a 25-year Bannockburn resident, said she relies on the intersection for 95% of her trips in and out of the neighborhood. "It's important to be able to get out of my neighborhood," Rogers said. "I think we need a light." She said the estimated $6 million dollar cost shouldn't stop the community from asking for one. "We have the leverage now," she said.

With no success in getting a light strictly based on traffic engineering standards, several in attendance said they were counting on political influence to supercede engineering criteria. One resident said he had become friends with former County Councilman Steve Silverman years ago, and lobbied him for a dedicated turn signal at River and Whittier. At the time, around eight years ago, he too was rebuffed by the SHA. But shortly after that, he said, crews suddenly arrived at the intersection one day and installed the new signal.

"It's not magic," he told attendees. "If the right strings are pulled, it can happen very quickly."

"Nobody has more legitimacy...than the group of people in this room right now," Boltuck said. "We have the advantage of legitimacy. At the same time, we have the disadvantage of a lack of consensus."

One resident suggested putting all of the options online in a survey, allowing the greater community to indicate which one they prefer, and thereby show what option has majority support. Rather than hold a meeting, he said, that would get wider participation "in a very formal way. Then we'll know what the community is behind."

Boltuck ultimately decided to take a vote among attendees. By a vast majority, the audience voted to support a traffic signal as the solution. In a second 50-4 vote, they expressed their preference to relocate the intersection east to Pyle Road, which many said would eliminate a second concern with students crossing River Road at an unsignalized crosswalk.

Boltuck said the next step would be to contact the SHA and Councilmember Roger Berliner, to inform them of the preferences of those who attended this meeting.

What's your opinion on whether a traffic signal is needed at this intersection?
SHA rendering of a
closed median at
River and Braeburn Parkway


Anonymous said...

Any word on the breakdown of the accident? Was the surviving driver at fault?

Robert Dyer said...

5:30: The last I heard in late April, the accident report was still being held pending completion of the police investigation, and it will then be released to the public.

Anonymous said...

*and then it will be released to the public


Robert Dyer said...

5:50: Your buddies on the County Council have gone on the record to say they don't read the text of resolutions they vote for, so you're not in a position to question anyone's intelligence.

Anonymous said...

pls don't use contractions in ur writing

Anonymous said...

So why isn't Dyer pushing to extend Massachusetts Avenue from its current end at Goldsboro Road, to River Road in this area?

That's in those 1960s Master Plans that he worships. (That's the reason the median is so wide here.)

Anonymous said...

I wish the idiotic, childish, useless trolls would find something better to do with their time instead of posting here so that readers who are actually interested in the information at hand wouldn't have to wade through this garbage.

Anonymous said...

8:14 I agree!!!!!!

Robert Dyer said...

7:13: Does that have anything to do with why SHA has a little depot there, it's a placeholder the state owns for some kind of interchange? I've wondered before how far Massachusetts was meant to extend past Goldsboro.

Anonymous said...

Where are all the commenters attacking the legitimacy of the meeting because there were only 54 people there? Where are all the commenters attacking the legitimacy of the meeting because many of the attendees happened to be older white people? Reading the comment section is disorienting without them.

Anonymous said...

@7:13 AM - Where can I find the old master plans?