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dm 26sep00 - School bus crash

September 29, 2000

Monday's bus crash a sign it's time to revamp Md. 77



Yesterday's collision between a Washington County school bus and a dump truck on Md. 77 should be the last wake-up call needed by those Maryland officials in charge of road safety. It's time to fix this two-lane street so children and others who travel it aren't at such great risk.

Yesterday's crash, which injured two dozen Smithsburg middle and high school students, took place when bus 38C began to slip as it came down the mountain toward a sharp curve on the wet road, according to state police. The bus then slid into the path of the dump truck, according to police.

No doubt there will be an investigation which will look at the bus tires and brakes, but it does not take a state highway engineer to know that the road, which runs from Md. 64 in Smithsburg to Thurmont, is unsafe. Those who come down the mountain toward Smithsburg face a severe turn that's tough to negotiate in dry weather, let alone in the rain or snow.

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The curve has been the scene of numerous accidents in the past, and nearby residents have written to The Herald-Mail telling of their dread every time they hear the screech of tires and the sound of glass shattering.

Isn't it time to spare them some of that anxiety? Isn't it time to do something to reassure parents that when they put their children on the bus, there's a reasonable chance they'll make it to school safely?

The first step should be for parents and residents of the area to approach state legislators to get this project put on the state's list for Washington County. The list, recently announced by Maryland State Transportation Secretary John Porcari, included $60 million over the next six years for 11 projects.

The Md. 77 improvement project was not among them. But now, while this latest crash - and the realization that it could have been much worse - is still on everyone's mind, it's time to lobby for its inclusion. At least $3.3 million of that $60 million in earmarked for recreational projects, so the argument that there's no cash available for making Md. 77 safer isn't one that anyone should accept.

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