SNOW HILL – Another serious accident at the dangerous Route 113 and Route 12 intersection in Snow Hill occurred yesterday morning, just two days after the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) visited the county on its annual tour.
The Routes 113 and 12 intersection has been a point of contention between Worcester County and MDOT since it was built, and in the 10 months since that section of improvements was complete, the intersection has seen at least 13 accidents.
Yesterday about 8 a.m., a Worcester County dump track traveling south on Route 113 collided with a north traveling Perdue tractor-trailor, carrying grain, when the dump truck driver turned left onto Route 12. The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office reports that two people were taken to Peninsula Regional Medical Center.
Several of the accidents at that intersection have occurred when vehicles make a left turn. The medians are not wide enough to be safe, many say. That flaw was recognized before the intersection changes were completed, but the county was unable to get the state to change the plans.
Witnesses to Thursday’s accident report a secondary accident as well, reportedly involving a tractor-trailer and three passenger cars. Two of the passenger cars hit the tractor-trailer and passenger car, which were stopped on the road due to the first accident.
County Commissioner Bobby Cowger happened on the scene shortly after the accident.
“I pulled up there 30 seconds after it happened. The smoke was still clearing.” Cowger said. “The county truck was on its side and the Perdue truck was jackknifed almost on top of it. The county dump truck was completely demolished.”
Cowger felt the fog was definitely a contributing factor to the accident, estimating visibility was less than 60 feet.
As of Tuesday, the accident count at the intersection stood at 12, with 17 vehicles totaled.
“We’ve sent 25 people, over 25 people, to the hospital because of Route 12 and 113,” County Commissioner Virgil Shockley told MDOT Administrator Neil Pedersen.
The year before the improvements were made, the intersection saw only eight accidents. The accident rate has doubled since then.
“The problem hasn’t gone away,” Shockley said.
Plans call for the intersection to become an interchange, but that work is scheduled last. There are three more phases to go on the Route 113 work before the interchange.
“Priority order is something we need to talk about together,” said Pedersen. “We should talk about it together and reach a consensus.”
However, Pedersen said he felt that it made more sense to go on with the next phase of the Route 113 widening because it is the most ready to go part of the project and should remain the priority.
The sequence of the next phases could be changed. “We’re open to what the order should be,” said Pedersen. “It should be based on an analysis of facts and data.”
“I hate to see more studies. I think the evidence is there. We need to do something,” said Snow Hill Mayor Steven Matthews. “We’ve got a problem and it needs to be fixed. It needs to be fixed now.”
Bob Hulburd, President of CRASH (County Residents Action for Safer Highways), urged MDOT to put in a traffic light, an inexpensive solution.
A traffic light on a high-speed road results in crashes of a different type, Pedersen said, and he does not want to create a less safe situation.
“We will obviously continue to evaluate crash data,” he said.
A stoplight would control traffic to permit safe left turns, Shockley said.
When a long-time traffic pattern is changed, there is a period of adjustment, Pedersen said. The driving public needs to be educated.
Some minor changes have been made to the intersection, such as clearing up sight lines, and adding signs to remind motorists to be careful.
“The ‘look again’ sign lasted one day before it got knocked down,” Shockley said.
Bids for the next phase of the Route 113 work, phase IIA, are in hand, but the work will not begin until the spring.
According to Shockley, there has been one accident on the rest of Route 113 in the last four months. “It’s about putting your money where your accidents are,” he said.
Shockley later said that he knows that the delay is a money issue. “If they had the money, they’d fix it,” he said.
SHA has scheduled a public open house on its plans for the interchange on Nov. 15, from 5:30-8 p.m. at Snow Hill Middle School.
The entire dualization and improvement project was originally scheduled to be complete in 2012, but the completion date is now uncertain with funding very tight.
Hulburd suggested adding together the two sections running from Goody Hill Rd. south to Public Landing Rd.
“It would take years off the completion of the project,” he said. “CRASH is still willing to do what we can to lobby federal officials. I think more needs to be done.”
State Senator Lowell Stoltzfus warned, “We’re still going to have people dying on 113 if it’s not finished.”