Driv­ers cau­tioned to slow down and stay alert

Record Observer - - NEWS - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

QUEEN ANNE — In the study pe­riod 2014 through 2016, there were 180 crashes on the en­tire sec­tion of state Route 404 be­tween U.S. Route 50 and the Town of Den­ton, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Of those 180 crashes, six were fa­tal and 68 re­quired med­i­cal at­ten­tion.

Although statis­tics have not yet been cal­cu­lated for the be­gin­ning of 2017, emer­gency re­spon­ders agree the sever­ity of ac­ci­dents on Route 404 has been less since con­struc­tion be­gan to con­tinue widen­ing Route 404, likely due to the re­duced speed limit and in­creased aware­ness of driv­ers.

Many trav­el­ers and com­muters are look­ing for­ward to the com­ple­tion of a dual high­way along Route 404 to de­crease their travel time, but it has never been about solely that, said Robert Rager, district com­mu­nity li­ai­son for the SHA. The goal has al­ways been to in­crease safety, he said. And it is im­por­tant for driv­ers to con­tinue to use cau­tion and obey the signs posted along the work zones.

Be­cause of the num­ber of ac­ci­dents his­tor­i­cally on Route 404 and the need for lo­cal emer­gency ser­vices to use the state high­way to re­spond to calls, SHA has been work­ing closely with de­part­ments in Caro­line, Tal­bot, and Queen Anne’s coun­ties, since the be­gin­ning of the con­struc­tion.

QAHVFC ini­tially asked to meet with the Route 404 project team so we could work though some de­sign con­cerns (e.g., turn­ing ra­dius at J-turns), said Rager. With most of the project de­sign now done we con­tinue meet­ing reg­u­larly for open dis­cus­sion of the project and to en­sure we quickly ad­dress any pub­lic safety con­cerns. “Ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion among flag­gers and emer­gency ser­vices per­son­nel has been great,” Rager said, “Re­ally this is a fan­tas­tic group of pub­lic safety pro­fes­sion­als to work with.”

“It has been a big plus for all of the re­spon­ders to be able to meet with the SHA folks, con­trac­tors, and other re­spon­ders so as to be proac­tive for po­ten­tial prob­lems rather than be­ing re­ac­tive. All the par­ties have re­ally worked well and are still do­ing so,” said David Chaires, Queen Anne Hills­boro Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment mem­ber.

How­ever, the one prob­lem noted con­sis­tently by the SHA and Mary­land State Po­lice, has been speed­ing through the work-zone and inat­ten­tive driv­ing. Although MSP was un­able to con­firm ex­act num­bers, an SHA worker re­ported on one par­tic­u­lar morn­ing just prior to the July 4 hol­i­day, one of the troop­ers as­signed to help as­sist with traf­fic con­trol and safety had to cau­tion or cite more than 30 driv­ers.

The speed limit through the work zones is 45 mph and is en­force­able 24 hours a day, said Rager. There is also no pass­ing along the dou­ble yel­low lines or on the shoul­der, and stop­ping at any point along the shoul­der in the work zone is strongly dis­cour­aged for safety rea­sons, he said.

The ad­di­tional po­lice pres­ence — re­quested by SHA and paid for through the con­struc­tion project al­lowance — was sought to help SHA work­ers and con­trac­tors with vis­i­bil­ity. It is not un­com­mon for driv­ers to be­come blind to the safety warn­ings and signs, after a pe­riod of time, ex­plains Rager.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased by the Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion (MDOT SHA) with the largest con­struc­tion sea­son in his­tory un­der­way — they are urg­ing driv­ers to stay alert, slow down and travel care­fully in road­way work zones. Work zone crashes con­tinue to oc­cur along Mary­land road­ways, with three se­ri­ous crashes oc­cur­ring in one night — June 29 — else­where in Mary­land, says MDOT SHA.

“The people who work on road­ways are moth­ers, fa­thers, sons, daugh­ters, sis­ters and broth­ers, and they de­serve to get home to their fam­i­lies. Their safety is in your hands,” said MDOT SHA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gre­gory Slater. “We should also re­mem­ber that in four out of five work-zone re­lated crashes, it is a driver or ve­hi­cle pas­sen­ger who is in­jured or killed, so driv­ers need to stay vig­i­lant in work zones for their safety as well.”

On av­er­age, more than 700 people na­tion­wide lose their lives an­nu­ally in work zone crashes. Six people lost their lives in Mary­land work zone crashes in 2016. Na­tion­ally, 130 road­way work­ers were killed in the line of duty in 2015, the se­cond high­est amount in a decade.

Pre­par­ing your­self to be pa­tient while the flag­ging op­er­a­tions take place and adding ex­tra travel time is likely the best so­lu­tion if you must uti­lize MD 404, how­ever SHA is en­cour­ag­ing driv­ers to seek al­ter­nate routes, said Rager.

If your goal is to save a few min­utes of travel time off your trip trav­el­ing at night may be your best op­tion for now. Oth­er­wise an­tic­i­pate de­lays, as presently two to three flag­ging op­er­a­tions are hap­pen­ing along the Route 404 cor­ri­dor. And keep in mind that this project does have a very near end in sight, with com­ple­tion dates set for Novem­ber, said Rager.

“As you can clearly see, our project will sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove safety and help break con­ges­tion,” said Char­lie Gis­chlar, SHA Of­fice of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

PHO­TOS BY HAN­NAH COMBS

Traf­fic slows on east­bound MD 404 for a flag­ging op­er­a­tion.

Mary­land State Po­lice, back­ground, of­fer sup­port to a flag­ger on west­bound MD 404.

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