BERLIN — While improvements continue this week at an intersection along Route 113 at Bay Street in Berlin where an accident in November claimed the life of a local teen, a bill in the General Assembly that would afford upgrades to similar intersections across the state died as the session expired on Monday.
Around 8 p.m. last Nov. 8, a Maryland State Police (MSP) trooper on routine patrol in an unmarked car was heading north on Route 113 approaching Bay Street when he collided with two local teenage brothers. According to MSP reports, for unknown reasons the two brothers crossed Route 113 from east to west in the area of Bay Street and ran into the path of the approaching MSP patrol car.
The trooper attempted to take evasive action, but was unable to avoid striking both teens. One of the teens, Tymeir Dennis, 16, of Berlin, and a Stephen Decatur High School junior, was transported by ambulance to AGH where he was pronounced deceased. Dennis’ teenage brother, identified as Tyheym Bowen, was transported first to PRMC before being transferred by air to Shock Trauma in Baltimore for treatment of his injuries.
In the wake of the fatal accident, a grassroots effort was launched, led by a concerned citizens group called the Berlin Pedestrian Safety Committee and its chairperson Patricia Dufendach, along with the Berlin Mayor and Council, county officials and the Lower Shore’s representatives in Annapolis, to urge the State Highway Administration (SHA) to make changes at the intersection of Route 113 and Bay Street along with other changes on the corridor through Berlin.
SHA officials heard the message loud and clear and responded with a variety of improvements for the intersection. Among the changes for the intersection of Route 113 at Bay Street in Berlin will be marked crosswalks, extended sidewalks, a and a countdown clock for pedestrians. In addition, SHA officials agreed to a speed limit reduction to 45 miles per hour for the section of Route 113 through Berlin and will install variable message signs warning motorists they are coming up on an area where pedestrians often cross the highway.
Those improvements are now underway with the sidewalk extensions expected to be included by the end of this week. The other improvements, including the crosswalks and the installation of the countdown clocks will soon follow.
Fueled by the successes of the Berlin Pedestrian Safety Committee and local and county officials to gain the improvements for Berlin and Route 113, Lower Shore Senator Jim Mathias and Delegate Norm Conway entered cross-filed bills in their respective chambers that would have extended the same basic improvements to similar intersections along divided highways all over the state. The cross-filed bills made it through the various committees and were passed by the full House and Senate, but the two chambers could not agree on different amendments and language changes and the legislation died as the session expired on Monday.
“The good news is, that intersection in Berlin is being made safer as we speak,” said Mathias this week. “The bad news is, the clock ran out on these bills in the end and they died as the session expired.”
Mathias praised the grassroots effort in Berlin including Dufendach and her committee and the local and county governments for affecting the pedestrian safety changes in Berlin without legislation, and vowed to bring back the bill for other areas in the state next year.
“They reached out to their local government and they were able to get substantial changes from State Highway in Berlin,” he said. “We’re going to bring this back next year because it’s so important. I remain dedicated to make sure this tragedy was not in vain.”