How did this happen again? Questions remain about latest Route 50 wrong-way crash

Phil Davis
Contact Reporterpdavis@capgaznews.com

Four days after another wrong-way crash on Route 50 — the third such collision near Annapolis in the past 15 months — Maryland State Police investigators aren’t ready to say how the driver entered the highway.

Police said an SUV traveling west in the eastbound lanes of the road early Sunday crashed into a motorcycle, killing two people from Baltimore, Donald Tyner, 56, and Janell McDougald, 45. The driver of the SUV, who has not been identified, survived.

Ron Snyder, a police spokesman, said investigators have theories but declined to explain them. Traffic cameras that dot Route 50 do not record footage, State Highway Administration officials said.

State officials made improvements to the highway after five people died in wrong-way crashes near Annapolis in 2017. Those included warning signs added to Buschs Frontage Road, about five miles from the crash site Sunday.

That was the spot where an Eastern Shore woman drove west onto the eastbound lanes in May last year, driving nearly two miles before running into an oncoming car. Area residents said the off-ramp from Route 50 often confused motorists unfamiliar with the road.

The Capital went back to the spot Wednesday, and two the other exit ramps closer to the Ridgely Avenue overpass where the latest accident took place.

The three ramps — at Ritchie Highway, Ferguson Road and Busch’s Frontage Road — all have clearly “wrong way” and “Do Not Enter” signs visible from the road. All also have highway lamps within close proximity to the ramps.

At Ferguson Road, several businesses surround the exit, including Red, Hot and Blue, a popular barbecue restaurant and bar. The exit ramp ends at a T-intersection and a stop sign and is next to the on-ramp for eastbound Route 50 headed toward the Bay Bridge.

Michelle Early, a five-year employee of Sheehy Lexus of Annapolis on Ferguson Road near the exit ramp, said she’d never seen anyone drive the wrong way down the ramp onto westbound Route 50.

She’s noticed the spate of wrong-way fatals and wondered if this latest one started at Furguson Road.

“I could see it happening,” she said. “It’s only a yellow line and then a median strip” separating the exit and entrance ramps.

“But then they would see it’s going the wrong way,” she added. “I’ve been here for five years and I haven’t seen it happen.”

John Schofield, a spokesman for the SHA, said crews made a number of improvements to the Furguson Road ramp since last fall. They added “wrong way” signs on both sides of the eastbound exit leading to westbound Ferguson Road and a wrong way directional arrow on the pavement.

A little farther east, the exit ramp to Ritchie Highway and Route 450 is surrounded on both sides by trees and other vegetation. There are street lights close to the exit ramp and “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs. To go the wrong way up the ramp, a driver would have to ignore a solid white line that outlines where drivers should be heading before the ramp widens to two lanes coming off the highway.

As for Buschs Frontage Road, business owners on the strip that parallels Route 50 have said the road creates a problem for distracted drivers.

When a 22-year-old woman caused a fatal accident last year after driving the wrong way off the ramp, Todd Niazi, who’s owned the Revell Service Center at the west end of the road for 30 years, said he regularly saw people use it as an entrance ramp heading west.

In response to the crash, SHA officials said they would make a number of improvements to the road they said amount to “over-engineering,” with their analysis finding the markings and signs were adequate before the crash.

Tuesday, a number of additional safety measures were visible, including a stop bar — a solid white line stretching across all lines indicating to drivers where to stop — to the exit ramp. “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs also are clearly visible.

Snyder, the state police spokesman, also declined to identify the driver, who has been released from custody. Police have not said whether they suspect alcohol was a contributing factor or whether the driver was injured.

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