Speeding Traffic Worries Thelma Avenue-area Residents

Committee Presses For Safety Measures

February 19, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

Eleven-year-old Christy Brandt remembers looking both ways before she stepped into the street, just like her mother told her.

But thatwasn't enough to keep the Corkran Middle School student safe one daylast November, as she tried to cross Thelma Avenue on her way home from school.

As her mother watched from the front yard in horror, Christy was hit by a car and thrown into the air before hitting the hood and thenlanding on the shoulder of the road.

Her shoes, knocked off her feet by the impact, flew across the street into her front yard.

"Itwent dark, and I heard people screaming," said Christy, who doesn't remember much about the impact. "I remember waking up on the side of the road in the dirt, and my leg was killing me. It felt like someonewas stabbing me in the foot and the knee."

Linda Brandt, Christy's mother, had been warning her neighbors for weeks about the dangerous speeds at which cars drive on Thelma Avenue on their way to and from Dorsey Road, Route 100 and Crain Highway.

"I kept saying, 'Before someone gets hit, let's do something,' " she said. "I was so afraidsomeone's child would get hit, and it was my child."

With the help of several neighbors, she has formed a safety committee, circulatedpetitions and organized meetings with county officials and traffic engineers during the weeks following the accident.

Brandt considersher family lucky: Christy suffered broken bones in her foot, bruisedand swollen knees and cuts on her legs and hands. But after being ina leg brace for six weeks, most of her injuries have healed, and sheis now back at school.

Her mother remains determined to do something about speeding Thelma Avenue traffic that has claimed neighbors' pets, mailboxes and fences and knocked over a fire hydrant four timesin the past year.

"The next time it might be a real tragedy," Brandt said. "Someone could get killed."

The safety committee plans two more meetings to come up with a solution.

On March 2, the committee will meet at Corkran Middle to plan its strategy and set a date for another public meeting. Brandt said she expects the public meeting, also to be at the school, to be scheduled by mid-March. A Feb. 10 public meeting drew more than 60 people, she said.

Some suggestions from residents at that meeting include closing the road between Thelma and Old Stage Drive, making it one-way or adding several stop signs or speed bumps.

Brandt said Thelma Avenue and Old Stage Drive, which run together, are residential streets not intended for high speeds or high volumes of traffic. But after drivers realized they couldcut through the neighborhood to avoid morning and evening backups onRoute 3, heading toward Dorsey Road or Route 100, the speed and volume of traffic on the residential street increased drastically.

"It's being used as a cut-through, there's no doubt about that," said Anne C. Sieling, a spokeswoman for the county's Department of Public Works.

Sieling said the department ran a traffic count on Thelma Avenue after the accident, which showed that 46,000 cars traveled the road in a six-day period.

County police also set up radar, which found cars traveled at an average speed of 45 to 55 mph in a 25 mph zone, Brandt said.

Sieling said county officials will work with residents to solve the problem but several options are still being considered.

As a temporary measure, eight Corkran students who used to walk to school on Thelma Avenue are now picked up by a passing school bus. Brandt said the school bus keeps the students safe but she wants apermanent solution.

"Most of the kids would rather walk. They feel like sissies riding the bus," she said.

Children also need a safe way to cross the road to use the ball fields at Corkran and to visit friends, she said.

"It's too dangerous for children to cross theroad. It's too dangerous for children to play in the front yards," said Reginald Person, who says he has seen cars lose control and careen into neighbors' front yards.

"We're trying to make this back into a community and not a racetrack," he said.

Residents from 10 nearby streets have joined the fight and are working with county officials. Brandt and her neighbors feared that if they fixed the problem onThelma and Old Stage only, it would shift speeding traffic onto another neighborhood street.

"We want to find the best solution for everyone," Brandt said.

Christy said she is still nervous about crossing the road and avoids it if possible. A few weeks ago, she went out to sell candy bars for the school's soccer team and decided to knock on doors on her side of the street only.

"I thought I was going to die," she said of the accident. "I still get real shaky when I have to cross a road."

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