By JEFF NEWMAN
The Charles County Department of Emergency Services and Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department hope to substantially increase the number of traffic lights that can be pre-empted to allow approaching emergency vehicles to safely travel through.
Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief Jeff Duer told the Charles County commissioners last week that GPS systems allowing emergency vehicles to manipulate traffic signals were installed at nine Waldorf intersections in the late 1990s.
Duer said his goal is to now have the devices put at 44 additional intersections before expanding even further into Bryans Road and La Plata. He added that the county requested the systems at 22 intersections in the 1990s before receiving nine.
Commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) asked whether it was “critical” to have the devices in La Plata and Bryans Road.
“La Plata, yes, Bryans Road, eventually” based on the number of emergency calls placed in each town, Duer said.
Charles County Emergency Services Director Bill Stephens said he was sure the county’s other volunteer fire departments would support the program’s expansion, but that it still formally had to be proposed to them.
Stephens also agreed with commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D) that the Charles County Sheriff’s Office should be included in the program’s implementation.
Billingsley roundabout set for 2015
County planning staff briefed the commissioners at their weekly meeting Sept. 17 on the double-lane roundabout planned for the White Plains intersection of Billingsley Road and Middletown Road.
Design of the $1.1 million project is expected to be finished in April 2014, with construction beginning shortly thereafter and wrapping up around June 2015.
Kelly noted that the project has been in the works since 2011.
“We’ve been talking about this for a while, and this intersection is needed desperately,” Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said.
Robinson also asked that county staff design the roundabout to better accommodate nearby Billingsley Farms.
Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D) asked whether the county could use speed bumps to slow down traffic on Billingsley Road, which he recently used while on a harrowing drive to Indian Head.
“By the time I got to Indian Head, I was a nervous wreck,” he said. “People fly down that road.”
“There’s no question that Billingsley Road between Middletown Road and Indian Head is a dangerous road,” Robinson said.
Assuming the Lions’ share
Kelly also floated the idea of transferring ownership and maintenance duties for the Waldorf welcome signs at the town’s northern and southern ends along U.S. 301 from the Waldorf Lions Club to the county.
The club built the signs in the 1980s and has maintained and paid their utilities ever since.
Kelly said the county still would accept the club’s help in caring for the signs, but that a transfer would “remove them of this burden and ensure these areas are maintained.”
“They really are, particularly in Waldorf, your first impression,” she added.
Club President Cal Weirich said its members had yet to be approached regarding Kelly’s proposal, and that he didn’t know whether they would agree to it.
“I hope that didn’t sound like the county wants to take over,” Kelly said.
Collins said Kelly’s proposal was an extension of the Waldorf Beautification Project initiative, and a way to maintain upkeep of “the most conspicuous [sign] in the county … with no intention of pushing aside the Lions Club.”