ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County has begun its efforts to bring more focus on their Vision Zero goals to stop traffic-related deaths by 2030 following the introduction of a new coordinator and projects to stop the growing number of incidents in the county.
Three pedestrians were killed already to start 2020 following the deaths of 13 people and one bicyclist last year. In a press conference on Jan. 27, County Executive Marc Elrich announced the start of the refocus on the decade-long project by introducing Wade Holland on Jan. 27 as the new full-time coordinator for the Vision Zero.
“There is a lot that we can do with the resources that we have,” Elrich said. “We need to start doing it, and we need people in this county to know that we are serious about this and drive these numbers down. Thirteen is too many, and we cannot afford another 10 fatalities over the next few months, or else this year will be worse than in previous years.”
Following an extensive search, Holland was selected following his work with the CountyStat Office for the past six years, focusing on public safety and transportation.
For the past three years, he served as the part-time coordinator of the Vision Zero Steering Committee. Prior to working in the county, Holland earned a master’s degree in public policy from American University with a specialty in advanced policy analysis.
“Now that the county executive has challenged us to do things in new ways, I want the 2020 Vision Zero Action Plan to be the floor of what we will do in 2020 and find even more opportunities to make our roadways safer,” said Holland. “I appreciate the county executive’s confidence in me, but I much more appreciate his commitment to support all of the work we have been talking about and planning for.”
In his presentation of Holland, Elrich restated his proposed capital improvement budget with over $266 million that would go to Vision Zero projects with an additional $9.3 million for pedestrian safety initiative.
Currently, the county is preparing to start on multiple projects, including 26 pedestrian and bikeway projects, add at least four new pedestrian beacons, and 16 road and bridge projects that will include sidewalks and bike paths. Holland added that the county would begin 32 projects in Bethesda, downtown Silver Spring, Aspen Hill, White Flint, Wheaton, and Rockville start to take shape now before 2030.
“We know that this community really cares about pedestrian, bike and traffic safety,” Holland said. “They want to live in a community that is safe, where their kids or parents or anybody can safely get from point A to point B.”
Elrich confirmed that the county’s transportation, fire, police, park and planning, and public information departments are joining forces as well as the public school system to help with making sure the county starts to become a safer place to travel.
“Everyone pretty much is engaged in doing the work in making our roadways safer for pedestrians,” Elrich said. “We are all going to have to stay engaged in getting this work done.”
Holland, together with Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee Chair Kristy Daphins and Acting State Highway Administrator Tim Smith, met with the Montgomery County Council on Jan. 28 in an over two-hour session, discussion updates to the Vision Zero plans.
State Highway officials told the council that it had launched pedestrian fatality reviews of all three incidents that have happened so far this year since they happened on Georgia Avenue, Rockville Pike, and on MD Route 355 north of Gaithersburg, which are state-run roadways.
However, county officials claim that the state must be more involved. In his press conference, Elrich recommended asking state officials for more funds for lights at intersections and bus stops to alert more drivers better. During the council meeting, Navarro addressed Acting State Highway Administrator Smith directly in stating that the county may not have all the funding needed to complete their project and the state needs to get involved.
Councilmember Tom Hucker added that the state should allow the county to implement automated cameras to catch distracted drivers and issue tickets. He has worked together with Maryland Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18) to file the bill in the statehouse.
“It is high time for the county council to ask the state legislature to give us the authority to have distractive driving cameras out there as well to keep people safe,” Hucker said on Jan. 27. “Distractive driving is, if not the No. 1 problem, it is nearly the No. 1 problem out there.”