Bayside Gazette 10031 Old Ocean City Blvd.
Berlin, MD 21811
Phone: 410-641-0039
Fax: 410-641-0085

News

Berlin residents galvanize resolve on traffic safety

11/21/13 | By Sheila R. Cherry, Associate Editor

BERLIN—A determined and resolute gathering of family, friends, neighbors and government officials converged at the Multipurpose Building on Flower Street Nov. 19 to plan strategy to address long-standing pedestrian safety issues that have plagued town intersections along Route 113 for years.

The community meeting was prompted by an accident on Nov. 8 when Tymeir Dennis, 16, and his brother Tyheim Bowen, 18, were struck by an unmarked state police car. Dennis died from his injuries at Atlantic General Hospital and his brother suffered severe injuries that required that one of his legs be amputated.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams formed a town and citizen subcommittee to execute ideas and actions sought by citizens to rectify the problem. Williams serves as State Highway Administration’s liaison to eight of nine Maryland counties, but serves no active role as an SHA representative in Worcester County. In regard to the accident, Williams’s activities have been limited to his role as mayor of Berlin.

“I am proud that the community has come together on this,” Williams said, in a Nov. 20 interview. “I’m very encouraged by the response of the entire community working to make this situation better. We all have a responsibility to do something about this,” he said, adding that the three key factors to resolving the pedestrian safety problem would be engineering, education and enforcement.

The subcommittee included Berlin Councilmembers Dean Burrell and Lisa Hall, Berlin Town Administrator Laura Allen, Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing, and residents Sue Beaman, Roxie Dennis and Patricia Dufendach.

The subcommittee is launching a petition drive to request the SHA install crosswalks at Bay Street and Old Ocean City Boulevard, and to reduce the Route 113 speed limit through Berlin.

Specifically, the petition reads “Route 113 is a dangerous highway and has been the scene of 7 (seven) fatal accidents since the year 2000. US Rt. 113 divides the municipality of Berlin. Traffic on US Rt. 113 is increasing and will swell with the completion of the dualization project. Drivers seem unaware that they are traveling through a population center. At present, there are no pedestrian-initiated means to cross this busy and dangerous highway. There are neither visible crosswalks nor a safe place to wait for traffic signals.”

Roxie Dennis, a great aunt of the brothers who were injured in the accident, thanked the government officials and residents who had offered condolences and support to the family through their ordeal. Speaking on behalf of the family, she specifically acknowledged the efforts of Berlin Mayor Williams and Police Chief Downing, who moderated the town hall-style meeting, and Atlantic General Hospital.

Delegate Norman Conway told attendees he had scheduled meetings with officials with the SHA to find ways to install additional safety devices at the intersection, including meeting with SHA’s Chief Engineer Donnie Drewer.

Dufendach led a brain storming session in which attendees offered ideas aimed at addressing the causes for multiple accidents that have occurred over the years.

Some of the ideas included:

Increasing traffic enforcement and lowering the speed limit on the section of Route 113 located within the town’s boundaries;

Installing additional lighting at all intersections;

Improving the grade of the curb system at intersections to ensure that pedestrians can view the traffic signals;

 Making sure that the traffic signals’ timing and visual cues are sufficient so that individuals with strollers or disabilities can cross safely;

Seeking school crossing signs near Berlin Intermediate School;

Driver and pedestrian safety education and awareness campaigns;

Encouraging youths and young adults to use letter writing and social media to make lawmakers aware of their safety concerns;

 Installing signage to inform drivers they are approaching residential areas and encouraging them to reduce their speed.

There were also calls for introspection and outreach to the two young men who survived the crash. One man suggested that the men of the community prepare to “cover” Bowen, by ensuring that he receives a solid demonstration of support when he ultimately returns home. Someone else reminded the nearly 80 people in attendance that the police officer, who was driving the car involved was likely also suffering emotionally from the ordeal; they asked that he be kept in prayer.

Councilmember Hall said that one way the community could help improve safety was to lead by example. She encouraged residents to begin lowering their own speed through the sections of Route 113 that extend through town.  Dufendach concurred with Hall’s suggestion, pointing out that Berlin has served as a model to the rest of the state on other matters. “They can look to us for answers on safety now,” she said.

While the meeting represented an impressive cross section of the town’s populace there were hints of a certain amount of underlying tension. One attendee said while he appreciated the ideas that were being offered, “what nobody is talking about” was the need for increased enforcement to stop drivers from using cell phones while operating motor vehicles.

Another observation was that the historical genesis of the problem was that the placement of the highway was a deliberate attempt to bisect the town along racially populated areas.

Loretta Brown-Briddell, a member of the Berlin Parks Commission, pointed out that there had been a litany of injuries and fatalities suffered by residents of the predominantly African American Flower Street neighborhood as they attempted to cross Route 113 to the commercial retail district of the town.

She said while there may have been an “us versus them” divide about safety in relation to the highway in the past, “now both the us’s and the them’s on both sides of the highway want something done.”

BERLIN—A determined and resolute gathering of family, friends, neighbors and government officials converged at the Multipurpose Building on Flower Street Nov. 19 to plan strategy to address long-standing pedestrian safety issues that have plagued town intersections along Route 113 for years.

The community meeting was prompted by an accident on Nov. 8 when Tymeir Dennis, 16, and his brother Tyheim Bowen, 18, were struck by an unmarked state police car. Dennis died from his injuries at Atlantic General Hospital and his brother suffered severe injuries that required that one of his legs be amputated.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams formed a town and citizen subcommittee to execute ideas and actions sought by citizens to rectify the problem. Williams serves as State Highway Administration’s liaison to eight of nine Maryland counties, but serves no active role as an SHA representative in Worcester County. In regard to the accident, Williams’s activities have been limited to his role as mayor of Berlin.

“I am proud that the community has come together on this,” Williams said, in a Nov. 20 interview. “I’m very encouraged by the response of the entire community working to make this situation better. We all have a responsibility to do something about this,” he said, adding that the three key factors to resolving the pedestrian safety problem would be engineering, education and enforcement.

The subcommittee included Berlin Councilmembers Dean Burrell and Lisa Hall, Berlin Town Administrator Laura Allen, Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing, and residents Sue Beaman, Roxie Dennis and Patricia Dufendach.

The subcommittee is launching a petition drive to request the SHA install crosswalks at Bay Street and Old Ocean City Boulevard, and to reduce the Route 113 speed limit through Berlin.

Specifically, the petition reads “Route 113 is a dangerous highway and has been the scene of 7 (seven) fatal accidents since the year 2000. US Rt. 113 divides the municipality of Berlin. Traffic on US Rt. 113 is increasing and will swell with the completion of the dualization project. Drivers seem unaware that they are traveling through a population center. At present, there are no pedestrian-initiated means to cross this busy and dangerous highway. There are neither visible crosswalks nor a safe place to wait for traffic signals.”

Roxie Dennis, a great aunt of the brothers who were injured in the accident, thanked the government officials and residents who had offered condolences and support to the family through their ordeal. Speaking on behalf of the family, she specifically acknowledged the efforts of Berlin Mayor Williams and Police Chief Downing, who moderated the town hall-style meeting, and Atlantic General Hospital.

Delegate Norman Conway told attendees he had scheduled meetings with officials with the SHA to find ways to install additional safety devices at the intersection, including meeting with SHA’s Chief Engineer Donnie Drewer.

Dufendach led a brain storming session in which attendees offered ideas aimed at addressing the causes for multiple accidents that have occurred over the years.

Some of the ideas included:

Increasing traffic enforcement and lowering the speed limit on the section of Route 113 located within the town’s boundaries;

Installing additional lighting at all intersections;

Improving the grade of the curb system at intersections to ensure that pedestrians can view the traffic signals;

 Making sure that the traffic signals’ timing and visual cues are sufficient so that individuals with strollers or disabilities can cross safely;

Seeking school crossing signs near Berlin Intermediate School;

Driver and pedestrian safety education and awareness campaigns;

Encouraging youths and young adults to use letter writing and social media to make lawmakers aware of their safety concerns;

 Installing signage to inform drivers they are approaching residential areas and encouraging them to reduce their speed.

There were also calls for introspection and outreach to the two young men who survived the crash. One man suggested that the men of the community prepare to “cover” Bowen, by ensuring that he receives a solid demonstration of support when he ultimately returns home. Someone else reminded the nearly 80 people in attendance that the police officer, who was driving the car involved was likely also suffering emotionally from the ordeal; they asked that he be kept in prayer.

Councilmember Hall said that one way the community could help improve safety was to lead by example. She encouraged residents to begin lowering their own speed through the sections of Route 113 that extend through town.  Dufendach concurred with Hall’s suggestion, pointing out that Berlin has served as a model to the rest of the state on other matters. “They can look to us for answers on safety now,” she said.

While the meeting represented an impressive cross section of the town’s populace there were hints of a certain amount of underlying tension. One attendee said while he appreciated the ideas that were being offered, “what nobody is talking about” was the need for increased enforcement to stop drivers from using cell phones while operating motor vehicles.

Another observation was that the historical genesis of the problem was that the placement of the highway was a deliberate attempt to bisect the town along racially populated areas.

Loretta Brown-Briddell, a member of the Berlin Parks Commission, pointed out that there had been a litany of injuries and fatalities suffered by residents of the predominantly African American Flower Street neighborhood as they attempted to cross Route 113 to the commercial retail district of the town.

She said while there may have been an “us versus them” divide about safety in relation to the highway in the past, “now both the us’s and the them’s on both sides of the highway want something done.”

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