SEAT PLEASANT – A dangerous crossing near Addison Road Metro Station is slated for improvement, but local leaders are frustrated with how long it has taken for the state to act. Right in front of the Addison Road/Seat Pleasant Metro station, there is a pedestrian crosswalk crossing MD 214 (Central Avenue), which has three lanes […]
SEAT PLEASANT – A dangerous crossing near Addison Road Metro Station is slated for improvement, but local leaders are frustrated with how long it has taken for the state to act.
Right in front of the Addison Road/Seat Pleasant Metro station, there is a pedestrian crosswalk crossing MD 214 (Central Avenue), which has three lanes eastbound and three lanes westbound, plus a left turn lane into the station. That crosswalk does not feature a stop sign or stop light, although green “Pedestrian Crossing” signs are in place and speed cameras have been installed along that stretch of 214.
Still, some local residents and officials say the measures in place are not enough to make the crosswalk truly safe. This year, two pedestrians were fatally struck by drivers while in the crosswalk; a Central High School special education aide on Sept. 21 and a 17-year-old aspiring musician on July 20.
“In law school, this is what’s called an attractive nuisance,” said state Del. Erek Barron (D-24). “It’s enticing people to cross in this dangerous area because people think it’s safe. I don’t see a crossing designed like this anywhere else in the state.”
Barron said he and other local leaders tried to meet with Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) officials about the issue for months and claim it was not until a local news station ran a story about the crosswalk that SHA gave any indication they were willing to make changes to address the problems, and that indication came in the form of a tweet.
“It’s really frustrating. Why does it take social media to get a response out of the Hogan Administration, as opposed to gentlemanly communication?” Barron said.
SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar confirmed that the agency is in the process of designing improvements to MD 214 in the area of the Metro station. In addition to this crossing, there is another, at the intersection of Addison Road and Central Avenue half a block west, which is at a traffic light and features pedestrian walk-don’t walk indicators.
“These improvements include a new traffic signal with pedestrian crossing amenities, as well as a relocation of the current crosswalk that is located at the west leg of the Metro lot entrance. Relocating the crosswalk will help to improve safety for pedestrians,” he said.
The project is already funded for both design and construction, with an anticipated start to the work in 2017.
Gischlar said with many SHA staffers out of the office for the holidays, he was unable to confirm when the decision to make these improvements was made. He said that since the first fatal crash in July resulted in a review of the area by SHA traffic engineers, the process most likely began in early fall.
He also pointed out that many amenities for pedestrian safety have already been in place in the area.
“The crosswalk is well marked, flashing warning signs are installed in advance of the crosswalk, sufficient crosswalk signage is posted right at the intersection and overhead lighting is installed for decent night visibility,” Gischlar said. “Additionally, there is an iron fence to direct pedestrians to the marked crosswalk.”
The crosswalk was also restriped after the July fatality, he said.
Gischlar said the pedestrian deaths were tragedies, but both were the result of driver error more than the design of the crosswalk.
“The issue with both of the fatal crashes was driver error and inattention. Someone ran up on the sidewalk in the first and in the second, someone was in the crosswalk abiding by the law when someone else struck and killed that pedestrian,” he said. “While engineering is an integral part of highway safety, both of these crashes were caused directly by driver error and inattention.”
“At some point the issue needs to be directed toward driver behavior, education and having motorists pay full attention to driving,” Gischlar added. “In Maryland, motorists must stop when pedestrians are in a crosswalk. It’s the law.”
On the afternoon of Dec. 28, as Del. Barron spoke with The Sentinel about the crosswalk on site, several drivers failed to stop when pedestrians were in the crosswalk. An area resident who commutes along 214 but did not want her name used because of potential repercussions from her employer said she has experienced instances where drivers in only two of the three lanes stopped.
Barron said while the improvements pledged by SHA are welcome, he still thinks more community outreach is needed.
“The community has been really concerned about this for quite some time, and SHA owes it to the community to let them know what their plans are, what it’s going to cost,” he said. “It shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. There should be a partnership.”