When Linda Suzuki of Silver Spring went to cross 16th Street late last month, she braved a “dangerous” scene that has become all too familiar.
The southernmost crosswalk at the intersection of 16th and Spring streets is painted at such an angle that cars traveling north on 16th Street and merging onto Spring Street cannot clearly see pedestrians stepping into the road, Suzuki said.
After realizing nothing would be done about the crosswalk if she didn’t speak up, Suzuki reached out to the county Department of Transportation on Aug. 23. The county told Suzuki the road was state-operated and referred her to the state Sept. 2. She emailed the state the next day and, as of Monday morning, has not received a response.
“The reason it’s a problem is that it’s a very dog-friendly neighborhood and it’s especially hard to cross there if you are towing a dog or if it’s at night,“ said Suzuki, who has lived in the Falkland Chase apartment building on 16th Street for more than 10 years. “Instead of watching for pedestrians, [drivers] are looking all the way across to turn left, looking in the complete opposite direction of the pedestrians.”
Jeff Dunckel, pedestrian safety coordinator for the county, said the intersection is a “very heavily trafficked area.” He said the county has been working with the state on high-incident areas in Silver Spring, such as the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Covesville Road, where they have performed safety audits to make recommendations to the state for driver and pedestrian safety.
“Sixteenth Street is a state road. Though we do work in collaboration and cooperation with them, whatever happens there is ultimately their decision,” said Dunckel, who urged pedestrians to establish eye contact with drivers to make sure they are seen before stepping into the road.
Similarly, Christopher Bishop, the community liaison for the county at the State Highway Administration, said safety is a “two-way street.” He urged pedestrians to be alert and not be distracted by their cell phones and MP3 players.
Bishop said the state has not received any citizen concern about the intersection and does not have any plans to make changes to the intersection.
“There is a clearly defined crosswalk alerting drivers that are making that turn that they are approaching a crosswalk,” said Bishop, who added motorists are required by Maryland law to stop at crosswalks for pedestrians. “The crosswalk is clearly striped. [Drivers] will know they are approaching that.”
Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring said he regularly facilitates meetings for his constituents to get their voices heard by the right officials.
“Times change and roads change for pedestrians and vehicles,” said Hucker, who thinks intersections should be continually assessed to ensure they meet the needs of the community.
“Every time I walked there, I got a little more scared that something was going to happen,” Suzuki said. “[It’s] started getting really dangerous.”