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
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|
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