Thursday, March 09, 2017

Whitman community meets again to show support for safety improvements at River Road intersection

Signal poles MD SHA has simply
left on the side of River Road
since last August, a situation
Whitman HS principal Alan Goodwin
last night called, "ridiculous"
A community meeting held at Walt Whitman High School last night showed that public support for safety improvements at the intersection where 3 members of a Whitman family died last year hasn't just persisted, but has grown. While 54 residents attended a June 7, 2016 meeting on the same topic, more than 90 showed up last night - nearly double the turnout a year after the fatal crash on River Road at Braeburn Parkway.

Emotions are still raw in the Whitman community, and some feel the Maryland State Highway Administration has been dragging its feet in implementing interim and permanent safety changes at the intersection. Referencing his candid remarks at a memorial service for the Buarque de Macedo family, Whitman Principal Alan Goodwin recalled, "I said I was sad, but I was mad. And I still am. They still haven't done anything."

"I said I was sad,
but I was mad.
And I still am. They still
haven't done anything"

- Whitman principal
Alan Goodwin

An interim move, installing warning flashers and signage near the intersection, was started by SHA suddenly in late August - and just as quickly, abandoned. "Poles lying in the road since [August]...It's ridiculous," said Goodwin. That interim project mysteriously appeared to restart in recent weeks, with SHA workers spotted surveying the site. Richard Boltuck, the Bannockburn resident who has led the community effort to make the intersection safer, credited Delegate Marc Korman for getting that project moving again.

I have to say that Korman, the only elected official to attend the meeting in person last night, is also the only elected official representing Bethesda to have earned consideration of reelection in 2018. He is regularly in attendance at important community meetings, while other elected officials are either absent or send a staff member. In contrast, I literally have never seen anyone else from the District 16 delegation at a public meeting I've attended since the last election. Councilmember Roger Berliner is usually absent, as well. He and Senator Chris Van Hollen did have staff members representing them at last night's event.

Boltuck was able to report progress on several fronts. The warning flasher project is now expected to be completed by the end of March, four months behind schedule. Second, he has been told an SHA concept study on the community's preferred option - a signaled intersection connecting River Road to Pyle Road on either side where today there is just a crosswalk - will be completed in the next few days. The results will then be reviewed by SHA engineer Anyesha Mookherjee.
Half-installed signal
pole for warning flashers
on side of westbound
River Road
After Mookherjee's analysis is incorporated into the final version of the study, it will be made public in early May, Boltuck said. If the study shows the reconfigured intersection is warranted and viable, Boltuck said, there would be some right-of-way issues to be resolved between the state and any affected property owners. Then an engineering design phase would be necessary before actual construction could take place. While SHA has repeatedly determined the current intersection doesn't warrant a traffic signal, Boltuck said an SHA engineer recently called the River-Pyle realigned intersection "an elegant idea."

Boltuck said his optimism was also boosted by the large turnout at the meeting last night, which was held partly to again remind SHA of the community support for changes. "It's reassuring to see that we have this level of support a year after" the accident, he told attendees at the outset of the evening.

One resident suggested dropping the "Cadillac option" under study now, in favor of putting all political pressure behind adding a traffic signal to the existing intersection, saying an SHA worker at the site had scoffed at the idea that the more expensive plan would ever be approved. Boltuck said that would be counterproductive at this stage, until SHA makes public its determination on the $25,000 study nearing completion.

Should the SHA dismiss the River-Pyle intersection concept, then the community will have to decide on its next move, Boltuck said. He stressed that he and his fellow volunteers would not arbitrarily choose an option, but would come back to the community for a public vote like the one that was held last June.

Three other options the SHA has already told Boltuck are "non-starters," are reducing the speed limit, speed cameras, and declaring that block of River Road a "school zone." Many people have also suggested simply closing off either the rear entrance of Whitman, or the median at the intersection itself. Goodwin dismissed the former idea, saying the school opposes that not only because they don't have the authority to do it, "but also because we don't want to."

Goodwin emphasized unity over division, however. "While we may not all agree on what needs to be done about the intersection, I think we have 100% agreement that something has to be done." He said the current intersection is poorly designed, and that "nobody knows how to navigate it." Goodwin suggested skeptics watch traffic at the intersection in the morning for some "serious entertainment," as students, commuters and school buses frantically interact there.

The popular principal is still emotional about the loss in his school community. "You can tell just by my voice that I feel tense about it," Goodwin said after starting the meeting with a moment of silence for the victims. He exhorted attendees to stay energized in their efforts: "Walk away, please, with your emotions riled up."


Anonymous said...

The Post reported on the hearing several hours ago.

#Scooped by the #OldLegacyPrintMedia.

Anonymous said...

How does Goodwin not have authority to close a gate on Whitman property? That's not a public road where the gate is.

"Doesn't want to do it" sounds like a cop-out.

Anonymous said...

And GGW linked to the Post's article.

Robert Dyer said...

6:51: GGW blacklisted me a long time ago. They won't print a link to even the stories their readers would find most relevant for petty, political reasons. But then you realize they are funded by the same angel investors as my competitors, and you understand...

6:33: How do you get #scooped on a public meeting attended by many media outlets? I've been the leading news source on the Whitman crash since the night it happened. In fact, the Washington Post plagiarized my exclusive reporting over that night. I was the first to report all the major details, while other outlets said a traffic accident had closed the road, and then went to bed. The Whitman community was able to turn to my website throughout the night for all of the critical developments.

I also broke the story about the warning flasher project beginning last August. My story was then knocked off by a small and slightly-failing magazine two days later without attribution - they, like Obi Wan Kenobi, had simply sensed via ESP that SHA was out on River Road, but apparently had to wait 48 hours for approval from the Jedi Council before publishing.

Anonymous said...

The other website hasn't reported on this meeting at all yet. Maybe their "reporters" came in late after a night of drinking their depressed lives away.

Robert Dyer said...

Update - the troll is proven a liar: The Post article was published yesterday, and has NOTHING about last night's meeting.

Anonymous said...

I travel on River Road regularly and it's a drag strip for so many drivers. I am often passed by cars which must be going 70-80mph. I don't know why speed cameras are non-starters; they work great on Bradley Boulevard, for instance.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, those 70-80mph speeds are commonplace well within River Road from Kenwood CC to Westbard and through to the DC line at Western Ave. There is little to no speed enforcement and their have been multiple pedestrian deaths. You can install all the lights you want but with No Speed Enforcement accidents will continue...

Woodmont said...

Fact: There's no coverage of last night's meeting on The Washington Post's website.
That's why Bethesda residents turn to Dyer's reporting of local meetings.

The Post does not cover this type of local news...never has.

Now, let's get back on topic :)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Where is the Shophouse scoop you loser? Oh thats right ... you're a fucking piece of shit.

Anonymous said...

8:24 PM If only you a could win a local Edward R. Murrow award for re-typing articles from "Nation's Restaurant News", maybe you'd have won one.

Now who is the "fucking piece of shit"? That's right, you.
Correction- you're a "fucking piece of shit plagiarist". There...that's better :)

Robert Dyer said...

8:24: [flipping pages of Wall Street Journal] "OMG, Sears is closing stores! HoHos gregg is closing stores! Noodles and Company is closing stores" <== Not comparable to investigative journalism by Robert Dyer or Woodward and Bernstein

Anonymous said...

Uh Robert Dyer your whole life is worthless - you have nothing better to do than reply to these comments (which I've outsourced).

Bob Woodward said...

Who is this local birdbrain who keeps comparing himself to me and Carl?

Robert Dyer said...

10:58: Actually, I do have better things to do, like report the news. Your favorite small and slightly-failing magazine didn't even cover this important meeting at Whitman. Walt Whitman!!! (Maybe the mag has "outsourced," too?) Embarrassing. In fact, a Google News search turns up no local media reports on the meeting at all. I'm the only local outlet to cover it.

Also interesting: Ken Hartman illegally used public funds to promote a private enterprise by promoting a story by the small and slightly-failing magazine in yesterday's Bethesda-Chevy Chase Services Center taxpayer-funded email. Yet, he did not share my story about the Whitman meeting and this major safety issue that is important to the community. Astonishing! Shameful!

Anonymous said...

Watch out peoples !!! You might be branded as "unruly" by Dyer's keeper @9:18.
We can be the press to Dyer's Trump.

Anonymous said...

Why is it "illegally using public funds to promote a private enterprise by promoting a story in taxpayer-funded email" when it's someone else's story, but merely "sharing" when it's yours?

That's one hell of a double standard.

Robert Dyer said...

1:27: He's either got to include a variety of sources, or follow best practices for government newsletters and not link to any non-County websites. To link to just one is an illegal use of public funds to boost revenue for a private enterprise.

None of the other county services center newsletters link to news articles.