Pedestrian Safety is Goal of Trust Fund Bill Proposal

County legislators want to increase the minimum fine for failing to yield at a crosswalk

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State highways in Montgomery County could become safer for pedestrians if legislation being proposed by two state lawmakers clears the General Assembly this year.

Senator-elect Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Kensington) and Delegate-elect Vaughn Stewart (D-Derwood) want to use some money collected from drivers fined for crosswalk violations to be set aside for road improvements.

With the deaths of 15 pedestrians struck by drivers and more than 300 total collisions through November 2018, pedestrian safety has been on the minds of many residents. In October, four John F. Kennedy High School students were struck by a vehicle at a bus stop on Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill, critically injuring one.

Under state law, drivers who fail to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk can be fined $80 to $500, according to the State Highway Administration. Stewart’s bill would raise the minimum fine to $150.

For fines larger than the minimum amount, the first $150 would be appropriated as revenue toward a “trust fund,” he said, which would improve pedestrian safety along major state highways.

“It would go toward education, structural improvements, street narrowing and bike lanes,” he said.

The bill would apply statewide, Stewart said, and is modeled after similar laws in New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

Stewart, who will be sworn into office Wednesday when the state legislative session begins, said Aspen Hill has been the “epicenter” of the where pedestrians are particularly at risk, with Georgia Avenue running directly through part of his district.

Georgia, Wisconsin and Connecticut avenues, all state highways, fall under the jurisdiction of the State Highway Administration, and he said he hopes the extra funding will help improve all three thoroughfares.

Waldstreicher, a Silver Spring native whose district also includes Georgia Avenue, said that road was “not designed with pedestrian safety in mind.” He said he has met with Stewart about the trust fund idea, and plans to cross-file a bill in the Senate identical to the House of Delegates version.

“I’m born and raised in Montgomery County and I’ve never seen this level of concern when it comes to pedestrian deaths,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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