State making improvements on River Road at site of 2016 fatal crash

State making improvements on River Road at site of 2016 fatal crash

New traffic lights, crosswalk included in $1.9 million project

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Four years after a Walt Whitman High School student and his parents were killed in a crash on River Road in Bethesda, state officials are implementing new precautions to make the roadway safer for drivers and pedestrians.

In February 2016, then-20-year-old Ogulcan Atakoglu was driving more than 70 mph faster than the speed limit on River Road when he drove his vehicle into another, according to police.

A family of four was in the other car. Three of them — 18-year-old Thomas Buarque de Macedo, 52-year-old Michael Buarque de Macedo and 52-year-old Alessandra Buarque de Macedo — died at the scene.

They were on their way to Whitman High to see a school play.

Atakoglu was later sentenced to spend 12 years in prison.

Now, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration has begun a $1.9 million “roadway safety improvement project” on River Road, according to a news release sent by the agency.

The new project, expected to be completed in the spring of 2021, includes:

• The installation of a new traffic signal at the intersection of River Road and Braeburn Parkway

• A new concrete island to prohibit left turns from Braeburn Parkway onto River Road

• Installation of pedestrian-activated, full-color traffic signals on eastbound and westbound River Road, near Pyle Road

• Moving the crosswalk on westbound River Road closer to Walt Whitman High School

• Constructing a new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk connection to the sidewalk near the high school’s athletic fields.

Until the project is completed, there will be temporary lane closures, according to the Department of Transportation. The lane closures will vary and will occur from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. Multi-lane closures will occur between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“It is great to see this safety project move forward to construction,” Montgomery County Vision Zero Coordinator Wade Holland wrote in a news release. “In the past few years, (State Highway Administration) has really stepped up its commitment to safe roads and working with County partners to develop effective safety solutions. We will continue to partner with (State Highway Administration) on implementing projects throughout the County to work toward our Vision Zero goal.”

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