Community members attend River Road intersection meeting
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Whitman community members gathered March 8 in the auditorium to address their concerns about the lack of progress installing safety improvements to the River Road and Braeburn Parkway intersection.
Spurred by the tragic February 2016 crash which involved a Whitman family and killed three while seriously injuring one, the community mobilized to prevent another tragedy.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Council President Roger Berliner and four other state lawmakers sent a letter to the State Highway Administration (SHA) March 14, criticizing the organization’s minimal response to the issue.
“Despite repeated requests for safety improvements at this intersection from community members and elected representatives at the county, state and federal levels, little has been done to remedy the problem,” according to the letter.
Bannockburn Civic Association vice president Richard Boltuck organized a commission consisting of principal Alan Goodwin, two other board members and senior Melody Lee, whose Change.org petition posted the day after the collision now boasts 4,242 supporters. After heavy debate and town-hall discussions, the group proposed a plan which he outlined at the March 8 meeting.
The delegation stated it hopes SHA will agree to install a traffic signal at Pyle Road, shifting the intersection at Braeburn Parkway to a potentially safer location for pedestrians who cross the street and students as they turn into school.
Lee supports the plan, but said it may take a while to develop, so she’s hoping for an interim solution in the next few months to remedy the issue for the time being.
I’m hoping that by all generations of our community being represented at this meeting, the State Highway Association will realize how big of an issue the intersection is and will start acting to change it.— senior Mattie Robinson
“In the future, I hope for an intersection where no student, teacher, neighbor or community member will feel unsafe in any way,” she said. “I highly encourage Whitman students to get involved, as this issue directly affects all of us. I think it’s important for students to attend community meetings like the one in June and last week and at least hear the discussions.”
Boltuck, who organized the meeting, has been trying to make the intersection safer since 2008, when his daughter was attending Whitman. That year, he petitioned the SHA to install a signal on Braeburn Parkway, which the SHA denied.
“The intersection is used intensively by high-school students who are likely inexperienced drivers,” Boltuck said. “In the morning, they are often in a rush to get to school on time for the bell, and may therefore not exercise perfect judgment.”
Senior Mattie Robinson agreed with Boltuck, saying she uses the intersection multiple times a day along with hundreds of other students.
“I can attest to how dangerous it is,” Robinson said. “I’m hoping that by all generations of our community being represented at this meeting, the State Highway Association will realize how big of an issue the intersection is and will start acting to change it.”
Elementary, middle and high school students as well as their parents can engage themselves in the planning process.
“Please join writing campaigns to elected leaders try to get some change,” Goodwin said. “I don’t want them to lose momentum.”