Six crashes in six months at intersection

Aleshire: It's time for the city and county to 'jointly discuss possible more permanent solutions'

Aleshire: It's time for the city and county to 'jointly discuss possible more permanent solutions'

November 06, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A crash Thursday night at the intersection of Eastern Boulevard and Chartridge Drive that left a 70-year-old woman seriously injured was at least the sixth crash in that area in six months, leading one Washington County commissioner to decide it's time for additional safety improvements at the site.

Police said the crash occurred at 7:37 p.m. as the woman was attempting to turn left onto Eastern Boulevard from the Hagerstown YMCA parking lot, a spot where area residents have been pressing for months to have a traffic light installed.

Pamela Carpenter, 70, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., was leaving the YMCA parking lot in a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder when she misjudged the distance of an SUV that was driving around the curve on Eastern Boulevard headed toward Northern Avenue, Hagerstown Police Officer Michael Alderton said.

The other vehicle, a 1997 Kia driven by Jamie Baugher, 31, of Taneytown, Md., struck the Pathfinder in the front driver's-side fender, Alderton said.


Carpenter had to be cut from her vehicle, and both drivers were taken to Washington County Hospital, Alderton said.

Carpenter was listed in serious condition Friday evening, a nursing supervisor said. Baugher was seen in the emergency room but not admitted, the supervisor said.

Chimneystone Court resident Jeffrey Spickler has led the push for improvements to the intersection, taking photos of crashes there and e-mailing them out to city, county and State Highway Administration officials. His e-mails have documented six crashes near the intersection from May 6 to Nov. 5, ranging from minor accidents to a June 12 crash about 800 feet from the intersection that killed 28-year-old Philip Martin Post II.

After receiving an e-mail from Spickler with photos of Thursday night's crash, Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire sent a reply calling for the City of Hagerstown and the county to "jointly discuss possible more permanent solutions," such as a traffic light, to improve driver safety at the intersection.

Eastern Boulevard is a county road, but the YMCA is part of the city, Aleshire said.

Washington County traffic engineers studied the intersection in the spring and determined it had visibility problems, heavy traffic volume and speeds too high for the sight distance available to turning cars, county public works director Joseph Kroboth has said. The intersection has no stop signs for Eastern Boulevard traffic, and there is a sharp bend in Eastern Boulevard a few hundred feet to one side of the intersection.

After the June 12 fatal crash, the county's highway department made several changes to the intersection, including reducing the speed limit from 40 mph to 30 mph, installing additional warning signs and prohibiting left turns from Chartridge Drive from 4 to 6 p.m.

County engineers determined conditions at the intersection didn't justify installing a traffic light, Kroboth said previously. State and county laws require an intersection to meet one of eight scenarios in a Federal Highway Administration manual before a light can be installed, he said.

If further measures are needed, the county could consider rumble strips, speed cameras or a full-time radar speed display, Kroboth said in August.

In a phone interview Friday, Aleshire said looking at some of those alternative solutions would be a "logical progression," given the frequency of crashes at the intersection.

"Over the course of the last year, our staff has evaluated the intersection, they have put in place additional safety measures, and it appears -- as we sort of get these reports and e-mails on a monthly basis it seems -- that those measures are not 100 percent effective," Aleshire said.

Aleshire stressed that most of the accidents near the intersection have appeared to stem from driver error, but he said officials should discuss whether additional improvements could influence drivers to slow down and pay more attention.

He said he didn't know if a stop light was the best solution, but he thought something more drastic than the previous changes should be considered.

"I don't know how many more 'minor improvements' you can make to that intersection until you get to that step and you've addressed the concern that still obviously exists there," Aleshire said.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Ashley Haywood said in an e-mail Friday she would like to see the matter on the agenda for an upcoming joint meeting between the city council and county commissioners.

Other county commissioners said they were open to the discussion.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he was not opposed to anything staff might bring up, but he had reservations about a stop light for the intersection because the curve of the road could lead to rear-end collisions. He stressed he would consider the intersection objectively and not base his response on the number of e-mails he receives.

Commissioner William J. Wivell said he thought the county's public works department was on top of the situation.

"I certainly have no problem with doing whatever it takes to make it safer for residents," he said.

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