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Pedestrian Safety Improvements in Wheaton

Isiah Leggett at Shady Grove Bike Path 450x280Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is celebrating the completion of pedestrian safety improvements on Reedie Drive between Veirs Mill Road and Georgia Avenue in Wheaton that were installed by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT).

This 800-foot stretch of road was targeted because it was designated as one of the County’s “High Incidence Areas” (HIAs) — locations having the highest density of pedestrian collisions. Between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2012, there were 20 pedestrian collisions including one fatality in the Reedie Drive HIA.

“In 2007, my Pedestrian Safety Initiative outlined a blueprint for reducing pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County, and our approach is making the County safer for pedestrians,” said Leggett. “Through engineering, education and enforcement, as well as a broad partnership between residents, County departments and agencies, and the State Highway Administration, the severity of collisions are trending downward, particularly in the areas that need the most help. Targeted interventions really can make a difference in reducing the number of pedestrians who are injured or killed.”

The Reedie Drive area is heavily traveled by pedestrians traveling to Wheaton Westfield Shopping Mall, the Wheaton Metro Station, public parking, retail shops, restaurants and nearby transit bus stops. Wheaton redevelopment is expected to increase pedestrian activity.

The engineering improvements along Reedie Drive appear to be reducing traffic speeds and increasing compliance of drivers yielding to pedestrians, and include:
• An enhanced crossing on Reedie Drive at Triangle Lane with a high-visibility crosswalk, curb ramps, curb extensions, and pedestrian crossing signs.
• A new crossing on Reedie Drive at Grandview Avenue with a high-visibility crosswalk, curb ramps, curb extensions and pedestrian crossing signs.
• A new median on Reedie Drive between Grandview Avenue and Triangle Lane that prevents pedestrians from crossing unsafely except at the designated crossings. The mounded median includes brick pavers, trees, shrubs, and bollards with cables.
• Improved sidewalks along the north and south sides of Reedie Drive using “Wheaton pavers” – a Wheaton Streetscape Standard developed by Montgomery County’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs to coordinate visual design elements in Wheaton.
• A raised planter along the south side of Reedie Drive at the Metro breezeway.
• Upgraded crosswalks along Reedie Drive on the east side of Veirs Mill Road and the west side of Georgia Avenue.
• Driveway modifications at Dunkin’ Donuts to improve traffic flow and reduce conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians on the north side of Reedie Drive.
• Additional pedestrian-scale lighting and upgrades to existing lighting.
• New trees planted along the corridor.
• A new island at Grandview Avenue that helps direct traffic flow.

In addition, Leggett thanked Vincente Lopez, Carolyn Gupta, Betty Smith and Bettye Blakeney who were representing a group of 30 Spanish- and English-speaking pedestrian safety advocates who have been conducting education activities in Wheaton/Aspen Hill for 15 months. Lopez was featured in a Spanish language YouTube story about the volunteers. Several of the volunteers were also instrumental in working with the State of Maryland to have a new signal installed at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Claridge Road to improve pedestrian safety in this heavily traveled area.

The volunteer brigade was formed following a community meeting held by MCDOT to engage residents in the Wheaton/Aspen Hill area in pedestrian safety education. The group represents the Hispanic/Latino community as well as several neighborhood civic associations, including Connecticut Avenue Estates, Montclair Manor and Rock Creek Palisades. Trained by MCDOT, the volunteers also work with County Police and the Maryland Highway Safety Office.

The volunteers have reached thousands of residents by promoting pedestrian safety at formal events – such as fairs and festivals – and informal events – such as setting up tables at local shopping centers. The volunteers have distributed bright yellow bags printed with a pedestrian safety message, reflective zipper pulls, “blinkers” and safety tip brochures at the following events:
• Taste of Wheaton: May 2012;
• Activation of new traffic signal at Veirs Mill Road and Claridge Road (ribbon cutting): July 2012;
• Salvadoran-American Festival/Latino Health Fair: August 2012;
• Kensington Labor Day Parade: September 2012;
• World of Montgomery Festival: October 2012;
• Safety Promotion Events (“street teams”) at Randolph Road and Connecticut Avenue HIAs: November 2012;
• Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade: November 2012;
• Aspen Hill Shopping Center Outreach Event: April 2013;
• Wheaton 4th of July Fireworks: July 2013; and
• Salvadoran-American Festival/Latino Health Fair: August 2013.

Since 2008, pedestrian collisions in HIAs have declined more than 37 percent, although they are still over-represented in collisions. In 2012, HIA’s comprised one percent of roadways countywide but represented seven percent of total pedestrian collisions. Improving pedestrian safety in HIAs is an incremental process as engineering projects cannot all be implemented at once. The range, cost and coordination required to implement the HIA engineering improvements means that they are being completed in stages over several years. This staged process also allows the County to leverage State roadway projects, such as resurfacing, to more cost effectively complete needed changes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,432 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2011 – an eight percent increase since 2009. In a press release issued yesterday, NHTSA stated that the data showed “that three out of four pedestrian deaths occurred in urban areas and 70 percent of those killed were at non-intersections. In addition, 70 percent of deaths occurred at night and many involved alcohol.”

The County’s website has more information about efforts to improve pedestrian safety.

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