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SHA responds to request for pedestrian safety devices info

BERLIN—Officials in Maryland’s State Highway Administration responded to an information request about the procedures and criteria involved in seeking pedestrian safety devices at dangerous intersections on Nov. 19 by first offering their condolences to the family of Tymeir Dennis, who was struck and killed by a car at the intersection of US Route 113 and Bay Street on Nov. 8.
Dennis, 16, and his brother Tyheim Bowen, 18, both of Berlin were struck by an unmarked police vehicle driven by Maryland State Police Trooper Nicholas Hager, 21, who was also injured in the crash. As a result of his injuries, one of Bowen’s legs had to be amputated and he suffered additional injuries, according to a family member.
“First, SHA expresses its heartfelt condolences to the Dennis family,” said Lora Rakowski, SHA’s safety and marketing education manager, in an e-mail response.   
“SHA reviews every fatal crash on state roads and is doing so following the tragic collision on US 113 in Berlin.   Although the actual incident was north of the intersection, engineers are also looking at US 113 and Bay Street for any possible changes to enhance safety,” Rakowski said.
Residents and town officials were in unison calling for long-requested action for increased pedestrian safety measures to be implemented at the intersection, during a Nov. 12 town council meeting.
Councilmember Lisa Hall pointed out during the meeting she had repeatedly warned about the intersection and others like it in the vicinity for years and urged that measures be put in place “to slow that traffic down.”
Berlin resident Patricia Dufendach also noted the safety problems that have plagued the intersection for years and pointed out other areas that have been equipped with pedestrian crosswalk count down devices.
Residents insisted that speed can often be a factor where the major thoroughfare intersects with a residential area since the traffic signal at Route 113 and Bay Street in Berlin is nearly 16 miles from the next traffic-slowing signal, near Route 113 and Market Street in Snow Hill. The only other signals are a flashing light at the intersection of Route 113 and Germantown, and a motion-activated signal at the entrance of the Board of Education headquarters in Newark. Neither function as ongoing traffic stopping devices.
Asked about the factors that SHA would need to review to consider installing a pedestrian crosswalk count down device or warning signage at the Berlin intersection, Rakowski responded they would include:  vehicle counts, pedestrian counts, vehicle speeds, sight distance and geographic surroundings—i.e. pedestrian trip generators such as schools and commercial development, proximity of other crossings, crash history, geometric conditions at the intersection, presence or lack of sidewalks, etc.  
Rakowski said SHA follows closely the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which outlines state and federal standards in addition to on-the-road observations when making decisions.
“With an average of 500 traffic fatalities each year, SHA places safety as our top priority. We are part of the coalition supporting the Toward Zero Deaths, because ‘zero’ is the only acceptable goal for traffic fatalities,” said Rakowski.
In the report “Strategic Highway Safety Plan 2011-2015,” the state of Maryland responded to a challenge by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to develop a strategic highway safety plan.
As part of that strategic plan the state adopted a Toward Zero Fatality goal. “To help achieve the goal, Maryland approved an interim goal to reduce motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries by one-half by 2030,” officials said.
As part of the plan, Maryland officials convened a Pedestrian Emphasis Area Team, which the report said, developed a model process “to identify and prioritize high-incident locations and system wide pedestrian safety issues; the development and evaluation of model approaches for built environments that accommodate safe pedestrian travel; and the development and evaluation of model approaches to improve pedestrian and motorist awareness and behavior.”
Rakowski said the report was being updated and that the Maryland Highway Safety Office was scheduled to present a summit of stakeholders in February.