River Road construction underway to ensure pedestrian safety


Jess Solomon

A view of construction on River Road, where the MDOT SHA will be spending $1.9 million on improvements.

By Claire Lane

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration began a roadway safety improvement project on River Road (MD 190) between Braeburn Parkway and Pyle Road on August 7.

The MDOT SHA intends to finish the $1.9 million project by the Spring of 2021. To complete all phases of work, crews will temporarily close one lane on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and close multiple lanes overnight from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following morning, according to the department’s press release.

The roadway initiative aims to improve traffic operations and driver welfare in support of Montgomery County’s Vision Zero program, which seeks to prevent roadway-related deaths and severe injuries.

“It is great to see this safety project move forward to construction,” said Vision Zero Coordinator Wade Holland. “In the past few years, SHA has really stepped up its commitment to safe roads and working with County partners to develop effective safety solutions.”

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has urged the state to increase safety precautions between Braeburn Parkway and Pyle Road, where a 2016 car crash resulted in several fatalities. 

After gauging public opinion about the improvements, MDOT SHA decided to transition into the construction phase of the project, said Assistant MDOT SHA Media Relations Manager Shanteé Felix.

“With the availability of construction funding, we have identified an opportunity to move forward with the project,” Felix said.

The alterations will include the erection of a new traffic signal on MD 190 at Braeburn Parkway, and the installation of pedestrian-activated, full-color traffic signals on eastbound and westbound MD 190, in the vicinity of Pyle Road.

The additions will also relocate the pedestrian crossing on westbound MD 190, which will be closer to Walt Whitman High School. Other projects include the construction of a new sidewalk connection adjacent to Whitman’s athletic fields, to be in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. 

“Students will benefit from the relocated and pedestrian-activated signalized crosswalks in the vicinity of Pyle Road,” Felix said. “The realigned sidewalk will have new lighting and connect directly to the existing sidewalk opposite Whitman’s Jerome M. Marco Stadium.”   

The new crosswalks are intended to allow Whitman students to more safely cross River Road and force drivers to be more aware of pedestrians.

“One time I was crossing River Road and a bus stopped allowing me to cross, so I stepped into the second lane and a car flew right by me — I was only a couple steps away from being hit,” junior Anna Curran said. “The new improvements will make me feel more safe when walking home from school.”