After several pedestrian-car collisions that have severely injured many people who were crossing streets or walking on sidewalks, the County Council is calling on the state for action.
On Tuesday, all nine members of the County Council signed a letter addressed to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, asking them to make more safety improvements to state roads in the County.
Among the specific measures the nine members of the Council are requesting is a reduction in the speed limit on Georgia Avenue, which is currently 45 miles per hour.
The letter was prompted by an Oct. 9 collision between a car that hit four students walking toward a bus stop on Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill.
“We want much-more-immediate safety relief along upper Georgia Avenue, including, but not limited to, reducing the speed limit: 45 mph is much too high for this suburban area,” they wrote.
The letter cites a growing trend in Montgomery County – pedestrian fatalities.
So far in 2018, 11 pedestrians have died on or near Montgomery County roads after being struck by cars; there were a total of 11 in 2017 and eight in 2016.
Since many of the roads in question are state, not County roads, it is up to state officials to grant the County Council’s request to reduce the speed limit on those roads, as well as to make any other safety improvements.
Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large), said that he is hopeful that the state will listen to the County’s request to lower the speed limit on some state roads, specifically Georgia Avenue.
“Our job is to really express that we want safety to be a higher priority that it is today,” Riemer said.
On Nov. 13, the County Council will meet with member of the State Highway Administration to talk about pedestrian safety on state roads in the County – likely focusing on Viers Mill Road and Georgia Avenue as problem areas for pedestrian safety. Riemer said there are several other things the state can do to make roads safer besides lowering the speed limit, such as building up more sidewalk infrastructure.
For the County, tension with the state over control over the speed limit of roads is nothing new.
Last, at the request of the County, the House of Delegates passed a bill allowing Montgomery County to lower speed limits below 25 miles per hour on County roads, but the bill failed to pass the Senate.
While the pedestrian deaths are on the rise in the County, Riemer has pointed to the County’s Bicycle Master Plan, which aims to make the County more bicycle-friendly as a way to reduce pedestrian deaths.
While the Bicycle Master Plan is not directly related to the recent pedestrian and car collisions, County staff, such as Casey Anderson, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board, have cited them as a reason to make the County more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.
“I submit to you, in an affluent suburb Montgomery County, it’s simply not acceptable. It’s a baseline expectation we ought to have for quality of life that people ought to be able to walk and ride bicycles around their neighborhood — people of all ages.”