I had a constituent request to explore getting flashing red lights at the intersection of Philadelphia and Holly Avenues. That location is just downhill from Takoma Park Elementary School. Traffic is regulated by stop signs and, during to-/from-school hours, by a crossing guard. The constituent wrote, “There have been so many crashes there with people running the stop signs on Philly. Our neighbors have been hit twice in their car even inching across cautiously.”
Police Chief Ron Ricucci provided data on accidents and on enforcement. According to the chief, “of all the intersections in the city, I’ve seen that one run more than any other.” Also, I researched Maryland State Highway Administration standards since Philadelphia Avenue is (for now) a state highway (Route 410).
Start with standards, for a flashing red light. The SHA references the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Section 4L.02 of the manual gives standards for signal installation. It says —
02 Application of Intersection Control Beacon signal indications shall be limited to the following:
Red for all approaches (if the warrant described in Section 2B.07 for a multi-way stop is satisfied).
Taking a look at that section —
Section 2B.07 Multi-Way Stop Applications
03 The decision to install multi-way stop control should be based on an engineering study.
04 The following criteria should be considered in the engineering study for a multi-way STOP sign installation:
B. Five or more reported crashes in a 12-month period that are susceptible to correction by a multi-way stop installation. Such crashes include right-turn and left-turn collisions as well as right-angle collisions.
C. Minimum volumes:
1. The vehicular volume entering the intersection from the major street approaches (total of both approaches) averages at least 300 vehicles per hour for any 8 hours of an average day; and
2. The combined vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle volume entering the intersection from the minor street approaches (total of both approaches) averages at least 200 units per hour for the same 8 hours, with an average delay to minor-street vehicular traffic of at least 30 seconds per vehicle during the highest hour…
D. Where no single criterion is satisfied, but where Criteria B, C.1, and C.2 are all satisfied to 80 percent of the minimum values. Criterion C.3 is excluded from this condition.
05 Other criteria that may be considered in an engineering study include…
B. The need to control vehicle/pedestrian conflicts near locations that generate high pedestrian volumes;
Regarding the Philadelphia-Holly intersection, Chief Ricucci reported —
2010: 4 accidents, 14 police traffic details, 8 traffic stops + 8 nearby traffic stops
2011: 7 accidents, 21 police traffic details, 31 traffic stops + 25 nearby traffic stops
Chief Ricucci said this is proportionately a lot of enforcement. He also offered the opinion that he doesn’t think we can justify a light — a flashing red — at that location, in part because of proximity to the Piney Branch Road intersection, but he’s willing to make a request to the State Highway Administration. Because Philadelphia Avenue is a state highway, Route 410, for now, it’s the SHA that would measure traffic and pedestrian use of the intersection and install and pay for signals and maintenance.
I thought I’d post this information for residents’ reactions. My guess is that residents will support moving ahead with a request for signals. My next step after that would be to consult my city-council colleagues given that there are multiple SHA-related city priorities and the city is in negotiations, supposedly close to wrapping up, to take over Takoma Park Route 410 ownership from the state.
Please let me know any reactions you have to all this. Send me a note at email@example.com or phone 301-873-8225.
Addendum: The city-council chartered Safe Roadways Committee (SRC) submitted a recommendation to the council on March 21, 2005:
Install pedestrian-operated traffic lights at the 410/Cedar crosswalk and at 410/Holly, replacing the 4 way stop there. These lights would be very similar to the pedestrian operated light at Tulip/Carroll. The light at Holly /410 would also have a trip mechanism embedded in Holly allowing drivers crossing 410 there to get a green light. The SRC proposes such pedestrian operated lights be reviewed as a model for working with SHA’s goal of maximizing traffic flow and the City’s goal of maximizing pedestrian safety. Consistent use of such pedestrian operated lights on State roads in the City could enhance pedestrian awareness of how /where/when to safely cross streets and also minimize traffic back-up and/or driver confusion caused by regular stop lights and/or stop signs (particularly 4 way stop signs as at Holly and 410).
A February 1, 2005 memorandum presents the SRC’s suggestions.
Regarding the stop signs currently in place at Holly & Philadelphia, according to Mayor Bruce Williams, whose remarks at the November 8, 2010 city-council meeting are summarized in the meeting minutes, “When stop signs were installed at Philadelphia and Holly, the City worked with SHA on the design and implementation of the project.”