River speed limit changed to 35


The speed limit on the segment of River Road extending from the Beltway to just west of Springfield drive has been reduced from 45 mph to 35 mph. Photo by Rohit Gude.

By Anna Yuan

The speed limit on the segment of River Road extending from the Beltway to just west of Springfield Drive has been reduced from 45 mph to 35 mph. New speed limit signs were installed early last week.

The reduction was the result of decades of advocacy from community members for a safer Braeburn Parkway intersection and Pyle Road crosswalk, former Whitman parent Robert Boltuck said. The two locations—located near the back entrance to Whitman—have been the site of several serious accidents, including a devastating crash involving a Whitman family in February 2016.

Since that crash, community members have intensified their push for better safety measures, holding three meetings over the past 2.5 years with locally elected leaders discussing proposals, Boltuck said.

A Whitman community poll of over 1,400 residents conducted earlier this year indicated that over 80 percent of residents would support a speed limit decrease near the Braeburn intersection in the interest of safety, Boltuck said.

While the community was generally in support, community representatives ran into issues while working with the Maryland State Highway Association (SHA) to finalize plans.

“The SHA proved to be very challenging to negotiate with,” Boltuck said. “But over the summer, State Delegate Marc Korman arranged for us to get in touch with the head of SHA, and subsequently, a lot of things began happening on their side.”

After the meeting, the SHA developed two proposals: reduce the speed limit to 35 mph or install a traffic light at Braeburn to control left-hand turns into Whitman. There are currently bollards at the intersection to guide cars across River Road in both directions.

After evaluating speed limits north and south of the segment, the SHA decided it was best to lower the speed limit to make it consistent with the entire corridor, SHA official Charlie Gischlar said.

“This roadway has a lot of unique characteristics and the speed limit reduction approach is a key factor in keeping a consistent speed limit throughout the remainder of the corridor,” Gischlar said. “This is also in-line with [Maryland Department of Transportation] SHA’s initiative to make adjustments for increased pedestrian safety when possible.”

Further discussion of adding a left turn signal and crosswalk improvements will take place on Jan. 15 at Pyle Middle School, when the SHA is sponsoring another community meeting.

“It’s very important and critical that community members attend the meeting,” Boltuck said. “It’ll be an opportunity to have their questions answered by SHA representatives and engineers about site details.”

Boltuck predicts that as long as the SHA sticks to their commitment to making the stretch of River Road safer and respects the community’s decision, the other two changes should be completed during the 2019-20 school year.