Safety modifications begin at Sixty Foot Road

The State Highway Administration has begun a $3.14 million project at Route 50 and Sixty Foot Road that will include installing traffic lights with left turn arrows on both the eastbound and westbound sides of Route 50.

New lights will replace blinkers currently in place.

The intersection has been the site of many accidents during the years, including the June 2010 crash that killed Wicomico County Deputy State’s Attorney Sam Vincent. The last fatal accident there was in 2015.

Rumble strips approaching the Pittsville intersection were improved and stop signs made larger. County officials asked state officials for a more detailed study to determine how it could be made safer, especially since 31,000 vehicles travel that portion of Route 50 every day, with higher numbers in the summer. More than 5,000 vehicles travel through the intersection every day.

Bob Rager, district community liaison for the SHA, in the Baltimore office, said the intersection is “generally OK,” but “it’s one of those where there are a lot of crashes, for reasons still unclear.”

“There is a lot of driver error there. Most crashes seem to be traffic going east, then turning left into Pittsville. That’s where errors in judgment occur, when drivers are sitting at that median,” he said. Speculation includes that, at certain times of day, it’s difficult to see because of shadows caused by trees there, he said.

During the current improvement project, new left turn lanes will be built and acceleration and deceleration lanes added, as well as landscaping and stormwater management controls, said Charlie Gischlar, assistant media relations for the SHA, based in the Baltimore office.

“We are very cognizant that having traffic lights, that stopping traffic in the summer, even for a couple minutes, can back things up, but we will time that to have maximum green time. We will do all the other work first, like turn lanes, and then lengthen the acceleration and deceleration lanes. It really doesn’t take a lot of time to put up a traffic signal, maybe a month. They have to go underground with infrastructure but the infrastructure is already there because a flashing light is there now. So, the lights will be done the latter part of project, next spring,” Gischlar told the Salisbury Independent. The project is expected to be completed by spring 2019.

“What we do is — and we do this for all new traffic signals to familiarize motorists — we will put the lights on flash mode three days in advance of putting them into operation. The main highway will get flashing amber and Fifty Foot Road will get flashing red. And, we will put up portable message signs saying there is a new traffic light,” Gischlar explained.

Extended acceleration and deceleration lanes will be built on both sides of Route 50.

The project, being done by contractor David A. Bramble of Chestertown, “will improve intersection safety and efficiency by signalizing all movements and providing sweeping left turn lanes from U.S. 50 to Sixty Foot Road,” Gischlar said.

He didn’t have statistics for 2016 to 2018, but said in 2015, there were four injury crashes and one property damage accident at the intersection, plus the fatal.  Five of six crashes occurred while drivers were turning left, on either side.

Technically, the new project began about two weeks ago, although there were delays caused by rain, Rager said.

“We are going to have barrels out there. We will start with the outside shoulders and have drums along Route 50 east and west while they work on the shoulders. We want motorists to pay a great deal of attention

“In Phase II, the inside shoulder and median work will be done. When we do that, we will have to close off the median and there will be a little detour. We have to care of stormwater management while we’re in construction, for erosion and sediment control to make sure keep all the sediment on our property doesn’t wash into the local waterways and then into the Chesapeake Bay,” he said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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