The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Maryland launches busy road work season

State Highway Administrator Melinda B. Peters stands with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett by the Georgia Avenue-Randolph Road intersection. (Photos by Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

Marylanders aren’t killing each other so fast on the state’s roads anymore, but there’s an exception within the trend. Fatalities in work zones rose from three in 2011 to nine in 2014.

During the past five years, more than 3,600 people have been injured in work zone crashes.

Laurie Moser, whose husband, Rick, was killed while working on a road construction project in 2007, wants you to think about that as the 2015 road work season begins. For one moment, “a driver failed to expect the unexpected,” she said, and her life changed forever. “Spare other families our tragedy,” she asked.

Rhonda Outlaw is a field supervisor and safety instructor with Flagger Force, which provides traffic control services. The mother of five has witnessed all sorts of driver misbehavior in work zones. “It’s a scary job,” she said. “Tons of steel are bearing down on you, with a distracted driver.”

The two women joined other road safety advocates at one of the big work zones in Montgomery County on Thursday morning to highlight share a simple message: Slow down and pay attention when you’re traveling through any of the scores of work areas that are sprouting on local roads.

You don’t even need to think of it as doing somebody else a favor. Melinda B. Peters, the Maryland State Highway administrator, noted that most of the people who get hurt in work zone crashes are drivers or passengers.

Drivers will encounter many big work zones this year. At the Georgia Avenue-Randolph Road intersection, where the safety event took place, crews are in the midst of a long-term project that will put one of the two major commuter routes, Randolph Road, into a short tunnel to separate the heavy traffic.

Peters also highlighted some large-scale paving projects coming up on the Capital Beltway. But she also wanted drivers to be aware that many projects involve small mobile crews working with the limited protection provided by orange cones, rather than concrete barriers.

And many of them will be working at night. Last year, I got to share the experience of a paving crew working overnight on Greenbelt Road in Prince George’s County. What I want drivers to know is that what may look to them like a wide berth between workers and vehicles doesn’t look wide at all when you’re standing along a row of orange cones at night. And what the driver thinks is a safe speed is plenty fast enough to seriously injure flesh and bone.

These are a few of the work zones drivers will see in Maryland this season.

The interchange project at Georgia Avenue-Randolph Road, now in its second year of construction, is scheduled to be done in spring 2017.

Crews are working on several long-term projects near the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health that are designed to deal with the extra congestion caused by the federal Base Realignment and Closure program launched in 2005. An intersection widening is underway on Rockville Pike at West Cedar Lane. Another BRAC project is widening the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and West Cedar Lane/Oakmont Avenue. Those are scheduled to continue till summer 2016.

East West Highway is scheduled for a resurfacing between Wisconsin and Connecticut avenues that will wrap up next spring.

Reconstruction of the University Boulevard bridge over the Beltway, which began in 2013, will continue through this year and into summer 2016. Watch for more traffic shifts in this complicated work zone.

Several paving projects will get underway along the Beltway. One resurfacing zone will be between the Clara Barton Parkway and the Interstate 270 spur. Another effort will target the inner loop between the I-270 spur and the Seminary Road overpass.

An interchange reconstruction is scheduled to get underway this summer on Indian Head Highway at Livingston Road/Kerby Hill Road.

Route 50 is scheduled for a resurfacing between Lottsford Vista Road and the Prince George’s-Anne Arundel County line.

The resurfacing of New Hampshire Avenue between Merrimac Drive and the Montgomery-Prince George’s line.

I-95 is due for a resurfacing between the Beltway and Powder Mill Road.