After a number of serious accidents, the Maryland State Highway Administration plans significant changes to the intersection of Great Seneca Highway and Kentlands Boulevard/Orchard Ridge Drive, Gaithersburg police told members of the Quince Orchard Park community on Tuesday.
SHA began studying the intersection about a year and a half ago, spurred by an incident in which a pedestrian was struck and severely injured, Officer Scott Scarff said at a Council in the Community meeting.
The biggest safety concern surrounds the geometry behind the intersection's design, which prevents motorists from clearly seeing pedestrians in the crosswalk, Scarff said.
After the study, SHA recommended six changes for the new intersection's design phase, which will begin this year:
- Extend the westbound left turn lane on Orchard Ridge Drive to 350 feet.
- Modify the median on Orchard Ridge Drive to make it easier to turn from southbound Great Seneca Highway onto Orchard Ridge Drive.
- Modify the median and realign the crosswalk across Great Seneca Highway's north leg to improve pedestrian visibility to drivers making right turns from Orchard Ridge Drive onto northbound Great Seneca Highway.
- Relocate an existing "walk/don't walk" signal on the southeast corner of the intersection, a move made necessary by median and ramp modifications.
- Upgrade sidewalk ramps at all crosswalks to meet the latest American Disability Act standards.
- Resurface the existing roadway and install new pavement markings.
SHA is hoping to receive funding in time to start construction of the project in 2014.
"That seems like a long way out, but if you understand what it's really going to take to make all these changes ... that's not unrealistic for SHA," Scarff said. "We as a city are committed to stay on top of SHA and make sure they understand this is a top priority for us."
Gaithersburg police have issued 276 warnings and more than 40 citations in the last year for drivers and pedestrians at the intersection, Scarff said.
"A lot of people just don't understand their requirements for that crosswalk, both pedestrian and motorist, and a lot of people really had trouble seeing that crosswalk," he said.
Quince Orchard Park community members were outspoken about the intersection during Tuesday's meeting, suggesting Gaithersburg needed to do more to improve its safety.
Scarff said any decisions about the intersection are left up to SHA because Great Seneca Highway is a state road.