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Red Lights Await Paint Branch Crosswalk

Department of Public Works says traffic signal, activated by pedestrians, will replace the current flashing yellow warning lights in place.

In about two weeks’ time, drivers will likely see red lights over a crosswalk along Paint Branch Parkway that has long drawn questions of safety—and necessity—in the past.

“We’re installing a traffic signal,” said Susan Hubbard, an information officer with the county’s Department of Public Works. “It’s been in the pipeline for well over a year now.”

Already aided by speed cameras, the crosswalk in question was fitted with flashing warning lights and rumble strips in 2009. Part of that was in response to cases of pedestrians—one on foot, the other a bicyclist—being struck by cars there.

Like the warning lights, which Hubbard said would eventually be removed, the traffic lights will go from green to yellow to red by pushing a button located on either side of the road.

Ground sensors will also activate the lights, though Hubbard said that is not a message the DPW wants to convey. “We just don’t want to get [people] out of the habit [of pushing the button].”

As local resident Lamara Johnson noted today, these same sensors seem to activate the lights even when someone isn’t trying to cross the street, but rather continues walking along the sidewalk. It is unclear whether this will remain the case with the new lights.

Meanwhile, others wonder about the necessity of traffic lights.

“I'm a proponent of pedestrian safety,” said Joseph Ross, whose daily driving route includes Paint Branch Parkway, in an e-mail. “However, I also wonder what instigated the process of changing the traffic control at this crosswalk, and whether there are really enough pedestrians crossing [vs. automobiles crossing] to warrant a traffic light.”

County Councilman Eric Olson, who in last year’s budget included some $160,000 for the new lights, said today that he had always wanted traffic lights to begin with.

“We have had several serious accidents [there],” he said, calling the road a “pretty inhospitable place for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Olson also said red lights make more sense, as some drivers “seem to be confused by a flashing yellow. And we may have some who barrel on through it, or some who stop, but the car behind them doesn’t.”

For more information about these lights and to contact Olson, click here:

Michael B. Cron June 13, 2011 at 04:51 AM
How about a traffic light at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and Edgewood Road. This intersection has been a nightmare for years. The crossing guards could control the light in the mornings and afternoons during school hours at Hollywood Elementary ( just like the University of Maryland controls the lights at Paintbranch and University Blvd. during sporting events). Why is it always about the money? Public safety should always be first and foremost. Why does someone have to die before something gets done? This would be a good thing to do before someone does get killed at that intersection.
Ron Alford June 13, 2011 at 11:04 AM
I'm glad they installed this light - the previous setup was like playing frogger. The sad thing is there wasn't a safer crossing without a mile-long detour to the west. Alas, the lights wouldn't be necessary if drivers followed the law and stopped for people in the crosswalk. I've seen studies that between 2% and 10% of drivers will stop at intersections like this! Not good odds. http://www.stpete.org/pdf/ite_paper_07.pdf
Joe June 13, 2011 at 12:12 PM
Certainly drivers will be more likely to obey a red light than a flashing yellow. Hopefully this will ease some of my own concern about yielding to pedestrians in a crosswalk, which is getting rear-ended by drivers tailgating me who might also not be paying attention.
Dan Blasberg June 13, 2011 at 08:15 PM
And yet, there are no lights what so ever for the northern end of the trolly trail at Greenbelt Rd. that has just as much if not more pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

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