As we reported in previous op-eds, the State Highway Administration (SHA), the Chestertown community, and the town have resurrected the 2014/15 Chestertown Community Task Force Study on improving safety on State roads in town.
The two authors of this report, Mayor David Foster, and senior officials from SHA, began work in the Fall, following up on recommendations in that 2014/2015 report.
While the study and its recommendations covered a wide range of issues on state roads, the group’s work, so far, has focused mostly on pedestrian and vehicular safety on the Maple/Washington Avenue corridor.
Although there is much that SHA can do and is doing to address problems of safety, there are regulatory and policy constraints with which SHA must comply.
Below, is a brief account of the progress made to date; it is a follow up to the presentation by SHA officials to the Mayor and Council last week on Monday, July 17.
State High Administration leaders in District 2, Ken Fender, and Rich Baker, made a positive impression on the packed, standing room only audience at that meeting.
Audience members asking questions and seeking information told us how grateful they were to listen to Ken and Rich and to feel they were being heard respectfully. There was civility and courtesy on both sides.
Month after month, since last Fall, we have met as a working group to see what improved safety measures can be introduced, not just by SHA, but by our own town management. Much has been achieved, albeit not yet fully evident, and we will continue to meet.
So where do things stand right now?
- the Council will shortly erect a digital speed sign, mounted on a moveable pole, between the Chester River Bridge and North Queen Street on the incoming side, showing vehicles’ actualspeed v. the legally posted speed, like on the Bay Bridge; soon after, the Council will add a second mounted sign on the opposite side of Maple Avenue between Philosophers Terrace and North Queen. These digital signs have succeeded in slowing traffic in Galena, and Betterton. In the future, other such digital signs may be posted on High Street or elsewhere
- SHA will put a push-button/cross-on-request flashing beacon at the pedestrian crossing at Kent and Maple
- large clear road-spanning markings will be added to the pedestrian crossings at Kent and North Queen as further indications to drivers to be alert to pedestrians crossing
- longer-term, SHA will add a pedestrian crossing for the very first time at the busy major Morgnec Road/Washington Avenue traffic junction
- SHA can consider further signage/indicators to the crossing poles at Kent and North Queen — still to be discussed
- The Philosophers Terrace/Cross Street/Maple Avenue traffic junction will be adjusted, both in the markings of lanes, and sequencing of traffic lights, etc, to make turns at that busy junction safer, and more pedestrian focused
- a No-Right-Turn-on-Red sign will be posted at the corner of Cross Street and Maple, on the “711 ” store side, and the corner there may be cut back to make it easier to hug the curbside and not swing near oncoming traffic
- SHA will now consider a follow up camera/”tubed”/speed-and-volume traffic study as was carried out in the late fall of 2022, and in 2014
- In the future, the data gathered from the two Council-controlled speed signs may be used to build a clear case for a speed camera or cameras, as long as that meets state regulations
- the pedestrian crossing at North Queen and Maple remains a point of contention for residents, a number of whom raised this at the Monday, July 17 meeting. Right now, the state “warrants” study showing numbers of pedestrians crossing does not justify a push button flashing light crossing (but is this because few people cross there because they are afraid to? To be discussed)
- The Council, on Council land, has erected a sturdy black iron fence at the steep cement steps on the corner of Maple Avenue and Water Street, on the West side of the Bridge, where pedestrians trying to cross to Water Street faced possible death or serious injury because of the difficulty in seeing oncoming bridge traffic. The iron fence also includes a clear sign warning pedestrians to only cross the road further down Maple, ideally at the North Queen/Maple junction or, safer still, further up at Philosophers Terrace
- SHA has also cut back the major tree/branch growth on the West side of the bridge which was obscuring pedestrians’ clear sight of oncoming vehicles
- Neighbors on Water Street and North Queen are also working with Google Maps/Waze, etc., to ask them notto post turns into Water or North Queen after the bridge crossing, but to specify turns at Cross and Spring instead; occasionally, large tourist coaches, for example, are driving down Water and North Queen
- further augmentation of signage on pedestrian crossings, warnings to truck drivers that loud “jake brakes” are against the law, and possible augmentation of current signs on 301 saying heavy trucks should not cut through Centreville or Chestertown
- Residents on High Street are also concerned about speeding between Spring Street and the Police Station and it may be that we need a third digital speed sign there. The Police have put a mobile speed sign between the Station and the RoFo roundabout; Chief Dixon has begun attending our monthly meetings and has been a key part of our progress; he is very committed to this project
- In addition, there has been significant speeding on Horsey Lane (off North Queen Street) by drivers using it to avoid traffic lights at Philosophers Terrace and Cross street; residents may ask the Council for speed bumps on Horsey
- We are also working closely Jim Bogden and Owen Bailey, on vehicle, pedestrian and cycle safety.Thanks are also warranted to Steve Mitchell of Water Street and Steve McWilliams of North Queen Street for their help.
Stay tuned and by all means get in touch with us at: