BERLIN – A recent accident involving a mini-van and a truck on Route 113 sparked further safety concerns this week about the yet to be dualized sections of that highway.
The accident, which occurred on Friday, Sept. 24 at 2:45 p.m. on a section of northbound Route 113, north of Downs Road, left the driver of the mini-van in critical condition and put her 7-year-old passenger in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Route 113 is considered a less than ideal road as far as safety goes in Maryland. In response to crash statistics well exceeding the state average, a project was initiated more than a decade ago to dualize the highway from Pocomoke all the way to the Delaware state line. The project was broken into five phases to make funding easier. When fully dualized, all of Route 113 will expand from its current size into a four-lane highway divided by a median.
Currently, phases 1 and 2 have been completed in the northern part of the county, while the remaining phases are either underway currently or still in the design phase, according to the State Highway Administration’s website.
Currently, SHA is in phase 2B, which upgrades the highway to four lanes between Goody Hill Road and Massey Branch. It’s about two miles and includes a median, access control improvements and shoulder work. Estimated cost for this phase is $19 million.
This phase daily results in significant traffic backups on the highway as there are lane closures in effect most of the time.
Phases 3, 4, and 5 are estimated to have a combined cost of around $100 million. An overall estimate as to how long it will be before the project is complete is not yet available.
The accident that took place Sept. 24 adds urgency to what has already been a long project. While the collision was attributed to negligent driving on the part of the driver of the truck, had it occurred on a dualized stretch of road the median should have prevented the truck tractor from crossing into the southbound lane and striking the mini-van.
Finding funding for the project has always been an issue, especially because of the current nationwide economic stall.
When questioned about the progress of the dualization of Route 113, State Highway Administration District Engineer Donnie Drewer responded that things were going as well as could be expected, with a decent portion of the highway already expanded or underway currently and the rest at least in beginning stages, such as design and budget estimates.
When asked if there was a significant difference in crash statistics between the dualized sections and those waiting to be, Drewer was unsure as to the specifics but said that the, “severity of accidents for the single lane sections were above the state average.”
This is significant as U.S. 113 is well removed from any major cities but is still able to raise similar numbers in regards to collisions. The Maryland Vehicle Association (MVA) website lists the state average for accidents at 103,734 per year in the five year period between 2003-2007. In that same period of time, a yearly average of 635 people were killed and 55,232 injured due to those accidents.
However, despite the plan to expand lanes in the future, narrower lengths of U.S. 113 are still well maintained.
“Obviously, newer sections are newer sections,” said Drewer, “but everything is kept in good repair.”
While dualizing the highway will almost certainly improve overall safety, Drewer attributes much of the trouble associated with the narrower segments of Route 113 to driver error.
“People come off the dualized sections and forget they’re getting onto a single lane,” he said.