BETHESDA, Md. - The Maryland State Highway Administration held a meeting with community members to go over plans to increase safety at the intersection of River Road and Braeburn Parkway in Bethesda where a Walt Whitman High School student and his parents were killed two years ago.
A memorial still resides at the spot where 18-year-old Thomas Buarque de Macedo and his parents, Michael and Alessandra, were struck and killed by another speeding car while heading to the school to watch a play back in Feb. 2016.
The student’s younger sister was the only person in the family’s car who survived that crash. She still attends school at Whitman.
The driver who hit them was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He was driving an estimated 115 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone.
Since the crash, the Maryland State Highway Administration put up a blockade so drivers cannot make a left turn onto River Road or drive straight across the roadway. Officials announced Thursday that this will now become permanent.
Flashing lights have also been put into place to alert other drivers when a car is turning off of River Road as the family was doing on the night of the deadly crash.
However, the principal of Walt Whitman High School does not believe this is enough.
“Anytime you lose a student, it’s a tragedy that somebody never forgets,” said principal Alan Goodwin. On that night, we lost not just a student, but also a mother and father. It's a very dangerous situation and the proposals from SHA so far are not reducing the speed of what cars can drive and I have concern about that.”
State officials are seeking public input on this stretch of roadway. Since River Road is not technically a school zone, there are no plans for speed cameras. But the plan does include installing a traffic signal at a pedestrian crossing area just steps from the intersection.
One resident still feels the safety plan falls short.
“I can count six schools within a close proximity of this dangerous stretch,” said Hugh Kelly. “I think speed cams would do great, but also dropping speed limit to 35 to make it consistent with the rest of River Road would be a sound solution too. You would actually improve the situation by putting a full traffic light in.”
“To put a traffic signal in, it has to meet particular criteria,” said Charlie Gischlar with the Maryland State Highway Administration. “It's a whole bunch of different things with sight distance, with through traffic, with driver expectation, daily traffic, that type of thing.”
In Montgomery County, speed cameras are only placed in areas where the speed limit is under 35 miles per hour or in a school zone. If people want to see change here at the intersection in addition to what has already been done, residents are encouraged to come out to these meetings. There is another one scheduled for late April at the high school. Officials want to hear from the community and work with them to do what they can to make this intersection safer.