Barrier needed at crash site, state lawmaker says

Senator asks SHA for solid wall between lanes of Bel Air Bypass

November 13, 2008|By David Kohn | David Kohn,

A Harford County state senator has asked the State Highway Administration to install a concrete barrier in the median of the Bel Air Bypass along the stretch of road where a fatal accident occurred Friday.

State Sen. Barry Glassman said that while the crash appeared to have been caused by driver negligence, constituents have told him that the stretch of road is hazardous.

"Between the volume of traffic and the speed, it's becoming a dangerous area," the Republican said.

The road at that point has two lanes going in each direction, with no barrier or grassy median between.

He said he and several other officials asked the state to conduct a study and then quickly fund the project.

SHA officials said Monday that the bypass is not unusually prone to problems but have since said the agency is open to making changes.

David Buck, an SHA spokesman, said the agency would begin an analysis quickly and would have results within two months.

He said that SHA engineers would have to consider a range of factors, among them: If a concrete barrier were added, the roadway would have to be widened by five feet. Buck said that engineers would have to analyze whether the shoulders could bear the load of so many vehicles.

The Bel Air Bypass is used by 37,000 vehicles a day, he said. The road was built decades ago, and at that time, engineers generally didn't think much about strength of soil under the shoulder, he said.

According to the SHA, from 2005 through 2007, the stretch of road extending six-tenths of a mile north and south of Vale Road, the site of Friday's crash, had 24 accidents. Buck said that number was not unusually high.

Rich Gardiner, a spokesman for the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, said there have been 10 accidents along that portion of road that required the department to extricate victims since 2001. Five of those people died.

Over that time, there were 99 accidents with injuries on the Bel Air Bypass that did not require rescue.

Police say the latest accident occurred when Christopher Lentz, 37, of Glen Arm, crashed his Jeep Cherokee head-on into a Saturn minivan on the bypass.

The crash killed Katherine S. Brady, 31, who was in the front passenger seat of the minivan, and her son, Wilson Brady, 8.

The other child in the back seat of the minivan, 2-year-old Ian Brady, was treated at Johns Hopkins Children's Center and released.

The children's father, Stephen M. Brady, 32, who was driving, remained in serious condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Lentz was released yesterday from Shock Trauma.

State police sought yesterday to clarify their actions during another collision that Lentz had less than two hours earlier. In the earlier crash, he allegedly drove across the center line of a highway in Joppa in his work van and sideswiped another van occupied by a woman and seven children.

He allegedly continued driving, but his vehicle stopped running a half-mile away. He was issued several traffic citations but was not arrested. Within 90 minutes, Lentz, driving his own vehicle, was involved in the second accident.

Elena Russo, a state police spokeswoman, said that troopers who stopped Lentz after the first accident saw no indication that he was under the influence of alcohol, signs such as bloodshot eyes, erratic behavior or breath smelling of liquor. She also said that troopers don't generally do a full check of a driver's record in such cases. They usually only look to see whether the driver is wanted for arrest, she said. Lentz was not wanted at the time, but he had a history of driving offenses.

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