How Will County Respond to Fatalities?

How Will County Respond to Fatalities?

August 27, 2002

At the end of a month that saw three fatalities in two automobile accidents on a half-mile stretch of Persimmon Tree Road, County Council president Steve Silverman (D-at Large) came to listen to residents clamoring for action.

The most recent fatal crash occurred when Sumil Shah, 20, of Saunders Lane and his cousin, Nikesh Shah, 18, of Chicago, were killed when their car struck a tree near the intersection of Persimmon Tree and Saunders Lane on Aug. 12.

One week earlier, Alan R. Howell, 42, of Gaithersburg, was killed at the intersection of Persimmon Tree and Eggert Drive.

"The question remains how many lives need to be lost in order to drive home the real issue," said Frank Menditch, Avenel Community Association president

Silverman met at the corner of Persimmon Tree Road and Saunders Lane with neighborhood residents and community organization leaders on Monday, Aug. 26. Attendees raised concerns and proposals for improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists on Persimmon Tree Road.

Persimmon Tree was a state road and became a county road in 1999.

"The decision is completely at the local level," said Silverman, who said that issues such as sidewalks, bike paths and widening the road are all county issues.

SILVERMAN AGREED TO "see if we can establish a quick timeline of things that can be done right away."

Other proposals mentioned were speed bumps, blinking yellow lights, "No Shoulder" signs near the intersection or three-way stop signs.

For immediate remedies, Menditch said, "the only thing I can think of is to add more four-way stop signs."

"I hope there is a different climate about it than there has been in the past about dealing with pedestrian issues," said Silverman.

In addition to the problems near Saunders Lane, several in attendance mentioned concerns with Persimmon Tree intersections at Eggert Drive and River Road.

"The width of the road is an issue, and the fact that there are no shoulders," said Menditch of the road near the Saunders Lane intersection. "Because it's so narrow, it's extraordinarily dangerous to bikers and motorists."

Visibility is a major problem on Persimmon Tree near Saunders, between vegetation and a hill which obscures the view of the road ahead..

"The brush was heavily grown over, and there's a little hill there," said Menditch. The hill needs to be flattened so visibility will be improved."

PENNY HELTZER, A SAUNDERS Lane resident, said that vegetation had obscured some of the stop signs at Eggert and Persimmon Tree.

"Two weeks before the accident, I called the county, begging them to cut the shrubs back," said Heltzer. The vegetation has been cleared since the accidents.

The approach to Saunders Lane on Persimmon Tree Road is narrow, with little room on either side. A chain link fence on the property of Congressional Country Club stands within several feet of the northeast side of the road near Saunders Lane. A fence and over 20 large trees line the opposite side of the road on private property to the southeast. Those killed in the accidents had no place to go, said Heltzer.