LANGLEY PARK – In February 2009, Erwin Mack was running behind schedule. Heading east on University Boulevard, he began to slow as he approached a red light. Forty feet. Thirty feet. Twenty feet.
A body slammed into his front windshield.
Mack, 78, of Takoma Park and chairman of the Montgomery County Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, hit a 61-year-old Latino woman 300 yards away from where a local news channel awaited to interview him about pedestrian safety.
“Could there be a greater irony than that?” Mack said. “I’m probably the most dedicated pedestrian safety person in the state of Maryland.”
A high rate of pedestrian accidents in the Takoma/Langley Crossroads was one of the driving reasons behind the move to build a multi-million dollar transit center to consolidate bus stops.
Mack’s experience was one of dozens of pedestrian and bicycle accidents that have occurred in the Takoma/Langley Crossroads in the past decade, Mack said. In fact, an Indian man was killed in a hit-and-run the day before Mack’s accident.
There were six pedestrian deaths just in 2008.
The pedestrian Mack hit only suffered minor bruises. She was running through the intersection to catch a bus.
At peak hours, 61 buses drop off and pick up riders at 11 different bus routes in the area — some about a quarter mile apart.
New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard is one of the busiest intersections in the state with about 95,000 vehicles and 35,000 bus riders a day.
A $12 million transit center, which will replace the Taco Bell in the northwest corner of the intersection, will consolidate the bus stops and curb pedestrian-vehicle collisions.
“The (transit center’s) original primary purpose was safety,” Mack said. “It’s an essential part of revitalization for not only the commercial interests but the value for the people who reside in this area and work elsewhere.”
The transit center will include new bus bays, a canopy, restrooms and connection to the proposed Purple Line, a light rail planned to connect Bethesda with New Carrollton.
The Maryland State Highway Administration and local officials have or will install several other services to prevent further accidents, including erecting wrought-iron fencing to block jaywalking, extending sidewalks, and installing pedestrian-activated signals.