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Speed reductions, crosswalk signals planned for Rte. 113

BERLIN—The Pedestrian Safety Committee, working with State Highway Administration officials, has secured in record time commitments for new projects to improve safety along U.S. Route 113, between Old Ocean City Boulevard and Germantown Road, according to a presentation by Patricia Dufendach to the Mayor and Town Council on Feb. 10.
Dufendach, a committee member, served as spokesman for the group during a status report to the town council at the meeting. Mayor Gee Williams convened the committee in response to a Nov. 8 traffic accident at the dangerous intersection of Rt. 113 and Bay Street that killed one teenager and severely injured his brother.
While the tragedy was a frustrating blow to the nearby community, which had been calling for improved traffic and pedestrian safety measures for years, the accident seemed to galvanize the two demographically different segments of the town that had been historically separated by a major highway into a unified alliance to ensure that changes were finally made.
Dufendach said committee members met with Donnie Drewer, District 1 engineer for the SHA and Dallas Baker, Jr., District 1 transportation engineer, and described the officials as helpful and cooperative. In a short amount of time the public officials and private citizens of the committee had made unprecedented accomplishments, the mayor commented.
The SHA has agreed to lower the speed limit to 45 miles per hour, from the area located one-half mile north of Old Ocean City Boulevard to the area located one-half mile south of Germantown Road, according to Dufendach. While she noted the committee had requested the speed limit be dropped to 35, the 10 m.p.h. drop from the current 55 m.p.h. speed limit was nevertheless a welcomed change.
Hazard lights will be installed at each end of the area to alert drivers to the lowered speed zone and the fact that drivers are entering a populated area within 18 months. An electronic message sign will be used in the interim, she said.
A crosswalk will be installed at Bay Street and Rt. 113—the site where the November accident occurred—by mid- to late-March, Dufendach said. In nine months, equipment will be added to allow pedestrians to initiate the signal, which will include an audible alarm and a visible countdown timer.
The committee focused on three core issues, according to Dufendach: improving visibility of pedestrians in the area, which was dimly lit due to a lack of adequate lighting; erecting signage to make motorists aware that Berlin Intermediate School was adjacent to the highway; and increasing safety conditions at the South Main Street and Germantown Road intersection used as a main access route for Worcester Preparatory School and Buckingham Elementary School.
The lack of lighting along the Berlin corridor was due to an expired Worcester County service contract, Dufendach reported. Due to the committee’s efforts, when the new contract begins this spring repairs for the Berlin area will be at the top of the list, she said.
The only two requested items the SHA denied was a school zone notification sign on Rt. 113 near BIS, because the front of BIS is located on Franklin Avenue, not Rt. 113, and a traffic light at Germantown Road and South Main Street, because a study conducted Dec. 18, showed the level of traffic at the intersection did not warrant one at this time.
However, Dufendach said the officials gave their commitment to continue to monitor the area for changes that might necessitate a reconsideration of the situation, such as additional commercial development or new traffic conditions.
Remarking on the speed and extensiveness of the upcoming changes for the intersection, Dufendach said, “This is just a big step for Berlin.”
The Pedestrian Safety Committee 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 Dufendach, Gabe Purnell and Neil Winn.
Mayor Williams commended the committee for its work and added that the physical improvements were but one of three components of the pedestrian safety initiative.
The other two components, as described by Dufendach would include pavement markings to reduce confusion for motorists making turns in the intersection and, because of the reduced speed limit, bicycle lane markings and signage that are required on roads with speed limits at or below 45 m.p.h.
Williams said the results were, “A great example of civic engagement” that could set a precedent for all sorts of things in the community.