By Larry Whitley, Fort Meade Public Affairs Office

Traffic Safety Council Quietly at Work

Fort Meade’s Installation Traffic Safety Council has been addressing community and garrison traffic issues for more than 20 years, focusing on safety and traffic management on the installation led by the Directorate of Emergency Services. The award-winning process continues to team regularly with representatives from Garrison command, garrison Judge Advocate General, Safety, Public Affairs, Public Works offices, and the NSA traffic and safety offices.

“Our job and focus is on security and safety for the people of Fort Meade,” said Lt. Daniel Schismenos, Directorate of Emergency Services Police Traffic Chief. “Our community on post is growing fast – more than 62,000 employees by a recent count – and addressing traffic flow and safety quickly requires the right people to be involved in getting to solutions. The ITSC members ensure that happens.”

The ITSC has been in existence since May 2000, but did not met regularly until September 2014, when it began meeting quarterly under Schismenos’ leadership to address the traffic safety issues for the Fort Meade community.  During the COVID global pandemic, Schismenos reconfigured the meeting format and was able to successfully convene five meetings during the height of the pandemic to discuss the traffic safety topics pertinent to the Fort Meade community.    

“Since 2014, the Safety Council has addressed over 160 topics that were either recommended to the council or identified by the council members themselves,” said Schismenos.  “The council has successfully discussed, identified the contributing factors, and recommended solutions for almost all of the topics.

“Not all of the 160 topics were traffic related, so the ITSC forwarded those topics to the appropriate garrison personnel for their review and future action.” 

During its last quarterly meeting, the ITSC addressed several topics and issues to include:

 -Rockenbach and Cooper intersection traffic lights: During its February quarterly meeting, the ITSC first discussed this issue but it was placed on hold until after the opening of the Rockenbach Access Control Point. The DES was notified that there had been community requests to convert the traffic light at the intersection of Rockenbach and Cooper to continuous flashing red. The ITSC had been asked to look into this topic. The Rockenbach ACP is operational and this topic was discussed. After reviewing data and survey results, the council determined that no change to current operations was warranted at this time.

-Cooper and Reece intersection traffic light for left turn arrow: The ITSC had been asked to look into the left turn arrow from Cooper Ave onto Reece Rd at the intersection. This topic was placed on hold until the Reece Access Control Point was closed. There has been community complaints regarding having to wait at the red arrow. The request was to change the left turn arrow from steady green and steady red to a flashing red arrow. The Reece ACP is closed due to construction (probably for up to four years). With the new situation, the issue is now mute and no action was determined to be the best course of action.

-Rose Street and PX Parking Lot: The DES has received multiple complaints about safety and near miss traffic collisions within the four way intersection of the PX parking lot at the access road from Rose St. This intersection is an uncontrolled intersection (no traffic control devices). The initial contributing factors identified are that motorists are either failing to observe the rules of the roadway in regards to yielding right-of-way or are confused on how to determine which driver can proceed through the intersection first. The DPW was asked to look at the area and see what type of traffic control devices will be needed there. After reviewing the data and observing the intersection, DPW gave an update and determined that a three-way stop will be initiated at the subject access point with incoming traffic from Rose St. having the right of way with no stopping. Timing for the change was still being determined and will be announced when appropriate.

-Rockenbach Road Crosswalk Light Issue (new): On March 23, 2021, the garrison safety office notified the ITSC via email of a complaint about the Rockenbach Road crosswalk light being inoperable. DES Traffic Division personnel went on site and confirmed that the light wasn’t activated and appeared to have no power. DES Traffic submitted a work request to DPW and a project tracking number was assigned to it. On May 12 May, the light was discovered to have power and was flashing yellow, but the pedestrian crosswalk activator buttons were still inoperable. The DES Traffic Chief sent an email to DPW to request an update on the project. On May 17, the DES Traffic Division confirmed that the traffic lights were indicating a solid green and the pedestrian crosswalk activator buttons worked properly on both sides triggering the light change from green to red as designed.

-F Street traffic flow reconfiguration: On April 26, 2021, the DES was notified via email by the construction contractor for Meade High School renovation project requesting a review of the traffic plans to reconfigure the traffic pattern of F Street from a one-way road to a two-way roadway. The purpose for the review and changed traffic pattern was to reduce the backup from travelers turning right onto MacArthur Rd in the mornings and allow them to also use the 26th Street entrance and then turn left onto F Street; using F Street for two-way traffic. The project was completed in early May. The DES Traffic Division confirmed that F Street is now a two way roadway with appropriate signs and pavement markings.

-Parade Field Lane traffic flow reconfiguration: On May 12, 2021, the DES confirmed from the GCSM that Parade Field Lane was going to be reconfigured from a two-way road to a one-way roadway. The recommendation from the DES Traffic Division was to have the traffic flow on Parade Field Lane from Cooper Ave to English Ave to mitigate traffic flow issues that occur during special events and helicopter landings on the parade field. The project starts the last part of May.

The DES Traffic Section has also developed a strong relationship with the Maryland Highway Safety Office and the Maryland Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Council.  These relationships have helped us to coordinate the efforts of the Fort Meade traffic safety community with the efforts of our counterparts within the Maryland State traffic safety arena; allowing for effective traffic safety for the Team Meade members that commute to and from Fort Meade.

According to Schismenos, the DES’s Traffic Section and the Police Department have elevated their efforts in traffic safety by conducting enhanced enforcement of traffic violations, completing traffic safety surveys to identify compliance rates for drivers using seatbelts and child safety seats, motorcycle operators wearing proper personal protective equipment, identifying motor vehicle collision contributing factors, and analyzing data to identify possible hot spots for future traffic enforcement.  Throughout the years of the ITSC’s existence, the traffic collision and traffic enforcement statistics have been provided to the council members to understand the ebbs and flows of traffic enforcement within our community.

The traffic safety efforts by the DES Traffic Section continues to have a direct impact on the discussions and recommended actions flowing from the ITSC. Schismenos cites a number of awards and recognitions afforded to his section, including the DES Traffic Section receiving “best practice” for its traffic safety initiatives during a garrison safety inspection conducted by IMCOM. 

“The efforts by the DES have direct positive impact on the discussions conducted by the ITSC,” said Schismenos.    

 “Not only do we exercise the authority of the Traffic Safety Council but we are absolutely tied into the federal, state and regional entities that address these same types of issues,” said Schismenos, “Through these relationships, we ensure an integrated approach to changes in our traffic roadway infrastructure with known changes to the roadways surrounding our installation.

“Our job is to help keep the Fort Meade community safe and secure – the Traffic Safety Council is important to doing that the right way.”