|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"
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 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.
pole for warning flashers
on side of westbound
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."