Upcounty Pedestrian Issues
Update: The State Highway Administration's response is here.
Dear Mr. Holmes:
As you may know, our organization, the Action Committee for Transit (ACT), sponsored a community forum on upcounty pedestrian issues on January 26, 2013, in Germantown. Jeff Dunckel, MCDOT’s pedestrian safety coordinator, attended the forum and was very helpful.
Participants in the forum learned that Montgomery County has a Complete Streets policy and that complete streets are streets that "are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities."
Participants identified seven problem places and four problem issues for upcounty pedestrians. Please see below for a list of these places and issues, along with the actions ACT requests of MCDOT to address each of them.
1. Germantown Road/MD 118, between Wisteria Drive and the I-270 interchange, in Germantown. This 0.7-mile stretch of Germantown Road combines increasing pedestrian and transit activity with high-speed traffic on multi-lane roads with widely-spaced intersections. At least five pedestrians have died here since 2007.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT to classify this area as a High Incidence Area, conduct a Pedestrian Road Safety Audit, and promptly implement all suggested actions. ACT also asks MCDOT, together with the Planning Department, to ensure that all road projects related to the Germantown Employment Area Sector Plan conform to the plan and are designed and operated from the outset to enable safe and convenient pedestrian use.
2. Crosswalk across Muddy Branch Road north of Suffield Drive, in Gaithersburg. People use this marked crosswalk to walk to the Muddy Branch Square shopping center. They are endangered by overgrown vegetation, drivers who overlook the crosswalk, and high-speed traffic. Two pedestrians have died here since 2009.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT to apply the necessary additional engineering treatments, including a pedestrian signal and traffic calming on Muddy Branch Road, to enable pedestrians to use this marked crosswalk safely and conveniently.
3. Intersection of Dairymaid Drive and Great Seneca Highway, in Germantown. People use this unmarked crosswalk to walk to the Kingsview Village shopping center. There is a goat track on the west side of Great Seneca Highway. The distance from this intersection to either the signalized intersection at Great Seneca Highway and Clopper Road/MD 117, or the unmarked crosswalk at Leaman Farm Road, is greater than 500 feet.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT to apply the necessary signs, markings, and engineering treatments to enable pedestrians to use this crosswalk safely and conveniently.
4. Intersection of Mateny Road and Clopper Road/MD 117, in Germantown. This signalized intersection has a pedestrian signal and pavement markings on only one of the four legs of this intersection (across Clopper Road on the east side of Mateny Road). In addition, the sole pavement marking consists only of parallel lines. There are bus stops on the west side of Mateny Road and on both sides of Clopper Road.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT to add appropriately-timed pedestrian signals and high-visibility pavement markings to all four legs of this intersection, as well as to add the signs necessary to make drivers aware of pedestrian activity, in order to enable pedestrians to use this intersection safely and conveniently. In addition, ACT asks MCDOT, together with the Planning Department and the MD SHA to design and operate this intersection for safe and convenient pedestrian use, as part of the planned development in the northeast side of the intersection.
5. Intersection of Shady Grove Road and N. Frederick Road/MD 355, in unincorporated Gaithersburg. There is no marked crosswalk or pedestrian signal across N. Frederick Road on the south side of this intersection. As a result, it takes eight and a half minutes and 28 traffic lanes to cross from the bus stop on the east side of N. Frederick Road to the bus stop from the west side, using marked crosswalks and pedestrian signals.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT, together with the MD SHA, to take the necessary actions to enable pedestrians to cross safely and conveniently on all four legs of this intersection, in conformance with the Shady Grove Sector Plan. These actions should include high-visibility pavement markings, signs, signals, and walk intervals appropriate for pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
6. Intersection of Observation Drive and Stringtown Road, in Clarksburg. People use this unmarked crosswalk to walk to Clarksburg Elementary School. It is over 500 feet to the nearest signalized intersections, at Frederick Road/MD 355 and Gateway Crossing Drive.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT to apply the necessary signs, markings, and additional engineering treatments to enable pedestrians to use this crosswalk safely and conveniently.
7. Roads in the more rural parts of upcounty Montgomery County. People are unable to walk safely and comfortably to destinations within walking distance, such as parks, post offices, rail stations, bus stops, churches, schools, and neighbors’ houses, due to high-speed traffic and a lack of sidewalks and shoulders.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT, both alone and together with the Planning Department and the MD SHA, to design and operate rural roads and arterials to enable safe and convenient pedestrian use.
1. Maryland law on cell phone use while driving. According to Maryland state law, if police officers are to issue citations for cell phone use while driving, they must first have another reason to pull the driver over, such as speeding. In addition, the law applies only to use of handheld cell phones. But drivers who talk on cell phones, either handheld or hands-free, are as impaired as drunk drivers.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT to work with Montgomery County state legislators and the Montgomery County Department of Police to change state law so that use of a handheld or hands-free cell phone while driving is a primary offense.
2. Speed limits in school areas. Hundreds of American children are killed and thousands more are injured annually as pedestrians. In addition, children’s behaviors as pedestrians increase their risk of injury or death. As a result, drivers should be especially aware of pedestrian activity around schools. And driving speeds should be low around schools, since even slightly faster speeds are much more likely to result in pedestrian death.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT (working with MD SHA as applicable) to install signs lowering speed limits and warning of increased fines for speeding on the roads around every school in Montgomery County.
3. Crosswalk markings. More drivers yield to pedestrians, and more pedestrians cross at crosswalks, when the crosswalks are highly visible. But there are many marked crosswalks in the county where the markings are faded. In addition, many of the marked crosswalks are marked only by two parallel lines, a form of crosswalk marking that is less visible than other forms even when the markings are fresh.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT to maintain all marked crosswalks in a state of high visibility and to give the same priority to crosswalk maintenance and repair as to maintenance and repair of traffic signals and stop signs.
4. Driver awareness campaigns. MCDOT encourages pedestrians to cross the street at crosswalks. But this increases pedestrian safety only if drivers obey the state law to stop for pedestrians in both marked and unmarked crosswalks. However, very few drivers know about this law.
Requested action: ACT asks MCDOT to increase driver awareness by working with the Montgomery County Department of Police to ensure that at least as many citations are issued to drivers as to pedestrians during pedestrian safety enforcement campaigns.
Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your response.
Tina Slater, President
Action Committee for Transit