Maryland and Charles County leaders have ordered transportation officials to study whether a traffic light is needed at a Waldorf intersection where vehicle collisions have killed two people this year.
Route 5 and Billingsley Road could be due for other changes, depending on the findings of a study started two weeks ago by the Maryland State Highway Administration, officials said. The study will look at lighting, street signs, turning angles and other engineering matters, officials said.
"There has been a concern about that intersection for quite some time in that area," said Kellie Boulware, a state highway spokeswoman. "We're going to determine if there needs to be a [traffic] signal."
The intersection has been the scene of two grisly crashes this year, one of which took the life of 15-year-old high school freshman Kevin Foster on March 27. Three days later, Cody Green, 24, of Baltimore crashed his car into a U.S. Postal Service truck near the intersection and died the next day.
The intersection has a stop sign for eastbound drivers on Billingsley Road, which ends at Route 5. Critics of the crossroads say it is difficult to make a left turn from Billingsley onto busy northbound Route 5.
Foster was killed when his father, Joseph Foster Sr., tried to make such a turn. According to the Maryland State Police, Joseph Foster pulled the family's sport utility vehicle into the path of a car heading south on Route 5.
Green's case was different. State police said they believe he fell asleep while driving.
Residents who live near the intersection, including state Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D) and Del. Sally Y. Jameson (D), say improvements should be made. In the past few years, commuter traffic has increased, and local residents use Billingsley Road to travel to a busy county landfill and to Grace Brethren Church and school.
"I want to make sure we look at the safety features" of the intersection, said Middleton, who ordered the study.
Jameson said the intersection sneaks up on drivers on Route 5 because there are no signs pointing it out.
"There's nothing to remind you: 'Hey, wake up. There's something ahead,' " said Jameson. She suggested that "rumble strips," road indentations that cause vehicles to vibrate, could be a solution.
Other residents and some members of Grace Brethren Church, where the Foster family attends services, say they want a stoplight installed. Tony Latham, a church member and engineer who has studied the intersection, said some cars involved in crashes have come to rest in the school's soccer field. One vehicle crashed into the bleachers.
"With the future growth of the residential community and the planned facilities in this area . . . we are increasingly concerned for the safety of the members of our church and high school," Grace Brethren Church pastor Jeff Thornley wrote in a letter to county officials last week.
The church formed a committee to study the intersection. Among its recommendations were installing a traffic light, reducing the speed limit from the current 45 mph and having a guardrail near the soccer field.
The state study will be completed in July. Until then, it will not be clear if vehicle counts and travel patterns suggest that a traffic light is needed, said Gregory D. Welker, an engineer for the State Highway Administration, at a Charles County commissioners meeting Monday.
Welker said installing a light sometimes can have unintended consequences on traffic flow. At Route 5 and Oliver Shop Road in Bryantown, two traffic fatalities occurred in quick succession last year shortly after a stoplight was installed.
Welker added that Route 5 and Billingsley has not been on a list of dangerous intersections that are top priorities for improvement.
"It has had a good safety record," he said.
Commissioner W. Daniel Mayer (R-La Plata) said a traffic light is needed and called for the speed limit to be reduced.
It would be "a simple inconvenience that we all can accept," Mayer said.