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Pedestrian hit by van hopes for crosswalk Social services workers have sought safer way to cross Railroad Ave.; Accident could spark action; City officials say state road is tough for them to oversee


Gertrude Robertson expected to be quite sore today, but said she hopes that having been hit by a van yesterday morning will bring a long-sought crosswalk on Railroad Avenue in Westminster.

"We go back and forth across that road all the time, and we've been fighting for a crosswalk or something for pedestrian safety, but nobody thought it was necessary," she said. "Maybe this is what it will take to get one."

The accident occurred at 8 a.m. yesterday as Robertson, 63, of New Windsor, was crossing Railroad Avenue to her job for a nonprofit organization located in the county's Department of Social Services building, the old Sherwood Distillery.

Former City Councilman David Babylon Jr., of the 100 block of Willis St., had made a left turn in a 1991 Chevrolet van from Emerald Hill Lane and was on Railroad Avenue heading toward downtown.

Robertson stepped from the curb, said police Lt. Randy Barnes. The accident was attributed to pedestrian error, and no charges were filed against Babylon.

"This may be the incident that causes everything to happen," said Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning and public works.

Westminster's mayor and City Council support improving the crossing, he said, but solving the problem hasn't been easy because "you have a county building, a state road and it's in the city."

Robertson is coordinator of the Human Services of Carroll County's Child and Adult Care Food Program, which reimburses licensed family day-care providers for the food they serve. She joined the private, nonprofit agency after working 33 years with the Department of Social Services.

She's been working in the renovated distillery building since the department moved there about seven years ago, she said, and workers have been complaining for just as long about their unsafe daily crossings.

"Ever since we moved in, we have been having controversy about crossing that street," she said. Although it wasn't a factor in her accident, she said some of the concern arises because "a lot of people [driving] don't know what speed it is. You'd think it's a superhighway at times.

She said the police officer at the accident scene told her, " 'You shouldn't have been crossing there. You should have been in the crosswalk,' and I said, 'There is no crosswalk.' "

Expecting the employees to walk a block and a half to the crosswalk near Main Street -- and then double back the same distance -- is unrealistic, she said.

"The social services workers brought that complaint to the attention of the city, the county," Beyard agreed. "The difficulty now is that people cross where they want to cross."

The city has been looking at the problem for a year and a half, he said. But it can't simply put in a crosswalk, because Railroad Avenue is a state highway -- Route 27.

The state doesn't usually put crosswalks in the middle of a block, he said, but is considering one at Emerald Hill Lane. State officials have made a series of other recommendations, he said, including having the county improve the walkway beside the building, and having the city move handicapped parking.

The only other thing the city can do -- which it does regularly -- is set radar traps for those who fail to reduce their speed from 40 miles an hour to 25 miles an hour as they enter the city, he and Lt. Barnes said. Speeding wasn't a factor in yesterday's accident.

"So our piece is a small piece," Beyard said. "A matter of repainting some handicapped spaces to bring them to that location at Emerald Hill Lane and Railroad Avenue -- if they relocate the crosswalk there."

Several state highway officials were unable to provide information about the crossing by last night.

In an interview, Robertson recalled the accident: "I parked my car on the Conaway lot to get to my building. There's no crosswalk, so I go straight across." Those who work in the building are supposed to park in that lot, she said, but clients normally wouldn't be in the permit-only lot.

"This morning, when I looked both ways I saw a van across the street. I felt I had room to get out."

She was wrong. The van that she saw swerved behind her, while a second van that she hadn't seen struck her. "And the next thing I knew, I was being tumbled around," she recalled. She was treated and released, with stitches in her left elbow, at Carroll County General Hospital.

A crosswalk may not solve everything, Beyard cautioned. "People just basically drive too fast and you have to expect that there'll be pedestrians, too. People will start crossing and get in limbo in the middle -- and that's scary when you're basically the dividing median.

"If there's a designated crosswalk and you're in it, you have the right of way -- but that doesn't mean they'll stop for you," he said.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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