- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2020

In the wake of three pedestrian fatalities this month, the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday pressed government officials about what can be done to make roads safer to achieve the “Vision Zero” goal of no traffic deaths by 2030.

“The council has thanked me for scheduling this and quite candidly I am sorry that we had to schedule this,” council President Sydney Katz said of Tuesday’s meeting. “This is not something that we wanted to do. This is something we necessarily had to do.”

Montgomery County registered its first pedestrian fatality this year on Jan. 6, when Jose Renan Guillen, 75, was hit by a car near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Aspen Hill Road. Police found a pedestrian safety flyer in his pocket at the time of the accident, according to news reports.

A week later, the county had two more pedestrian deaths within a span of 24 hours: Michael Louis Gamboa, 40, and Brett Richard Badin, 32, were hit by cars along Rockville Pike.

Preliminary data for 2019 shows there were 265 serious and fatal collisions in the county — a 28% reduction from the average number of incidents from 2012 to 2016. However, the statistics missed the Vision Zero goal of a 35% reduction.

What’s more, the number of fatal crashes increased for the first time in four years, from 13 in 2018 to 17 in 2019. There were 13 pedestrian fatalities and one cyclist fatality last year.

This is the third time in a year the council has met to review the Vision Zero traffic safety plan.

“We have an entire road network that is completely outdated, it was built mostly between the 1930s and the 1960s at a time when our communities looked much different, [the roads] were being used much differently and the goals of the infrastructure was for a far different purpose, not for the liveable, walkable communities we talk about, that we want to live in, that we say we are living in and that we are trying to create,” said Andrew Friedson, District 1 Democrat.

County Executive Marc Elrich announced Monday at a press conference that he is taking steps to make the roads safer and that he was appointing Wade Holland as the first Vision Zero coordinator.

With an additional $23.9 million in the budget for Vision Zero projects, Mr. Holland discussed a number of action items to complete this year to make progress on the goal.

He offered examples such as installing white LED lights at crosswalks and bus stops that will help drivers better see where pedestrians are, creating a network of bike lanes across the county, improving turning radiuses on county roads, and emphasizing enforcement and education strategies.

Council member Tom Hucker, District 5 Democrat, encouraged his colleagues to support state legislation that would allow the county to explore technology that monitors distracted drivers.

“It is irresponsible to do anything but take advantage of the best available technology to keep our people safe and that includes automated distracted driving [enforcement],” Mr. Hucker said, adding that the county was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to use red-light and school-bus cameras.

However, the legislation has raised concern among his colleagues about implementing untested technology in the county.

The council is hosting a town hall on the Vision Zero traffic safety plan at 2 p.m. Feb. 9 at Wheaton High School to hear directly from the public.

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