Elected officials want the state to improve a stretch of Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring where a three-vehicle crash killed a 4-year-old girl last month.
The crash happened Oct. 21 at the intersection of Georgia and Dexter avenues.
Montgomery County police have said that the driver of a 2020 Ford Fusion was trying to turn left from the northbound lanes of Georgia Avenue onto Dexter Avenue. A 2005 Acura RSX and a 2021 Honda Civic that were traveling south on Georgia Avenue struck the Ford.
Police said 4-year-old Iliana Hernandez of Silver Spring died at a hospital after the crash, and four other people were injured.
Less than a week after the crash, state Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher and Dels. Jared Solomon, Emily Shetty and Al Carr, Democrats who represent District 18 (Kensington, Silver Spring, Chevy Chase), wrote a letter to Tim Smith, the administrator of the Maryland State Highway Administration, saying they were worried about the area where the crash happened.
“Our offices have since heard from numerous constituents expressing deep concerns over poor sightlines for vehicles making the very turn that led to this collision,” they wrote in the letter. “Additionally, as we have expressed previously, we have also received numerous complaints about excessive speeding along this section of Georgia Avenue and requested a speed study of this corridor.”
County Council members Tom Hucker, Gabe Albornoz, Evan Glass, Will Jawando and Hans Riemer, were also copied on the letter, along with county Transportation Director Chris Conklin.
According to the county’s Vision Zero map, there were about 70 crashes on the stretch of Georgia Avenue between the Beltway and Dexter avenue from 2015 to 2019. Of those, none was fatal and five resulted in serious injury.
Vision Zero refers to the county’s initiative to eliminate traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
Waldstreicher told Bethesda Beat that the State Highway Administration has improvements planned for the stretch of Georgia Avenue in Montgomery Hills just south of the Beltway.
“If we slow folks as they come through the Montgomery Hills area, the portion just north of there will also become safer,” he said.
Waldstreicher said he thinks the stretch of Georgia just north of the Beltway also needs improvements, including reducing drivers’ speeds.
“There’s no silver bullet here. We need a whole of government approach,” he said. “And that means state legislators, County Council members, the county executive, the State Highway Administration] and the county Department of Transportation all at the table together working on multiple solutions.”
The Maryland Department of Transportation is “working with law enforcement to better understand what happened,” spokeswoman Shantee Felix wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat.
“Each time there is a serious crash, we review the police report to determine what can be done from an engineering standpoint to make our roads safer. We value our strategic partnership with local law enforcement and the Maryland Highway Safety Office to continue to keep targeted enforcement active,” she wrote.
Montgomery County Families for Safe Streets founding member Peter Gray, a Silver Spring resident who lives a few blocks from the intersection where the crash occurred, told Bethesda Beat last week that a slight rise in Georgia Avenue near the intersection with Dexter creates a blind spot.
But the real problem, he said, is that drivers are going too fast and trying to make a left turn in a tight space.
Gray said the area of Georgia near Forest Glen Road has been a major focus of the county in recent years due to so many crashes near that intersection.
“That led to a concerted, persistent campaign by neighbors to get a tunnel to the Metro, so that people wouldn’t have to cross six lanes,” he said.
According to the county’s capital improvements budget, the design phase of the tunnel project is slated to begin in the current fiscal year. Construction is scheduled to start in fiscal year 2025.
Waldstreicher said he and Del. Julie Palakovich Carr, a Democrat who represents Rockville and Gaithersburg, will introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would require crash reports from law enforcement agencies to include recommendations for how to prevent fatalities in the future in a given stretch of road.
The recommendations, he said, would come from a department of transportation or another agency other than law enforcement.
“This is happening all too frequently in Montgomery County, and it’s tragic for the families affected,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org