Maryland Route 197

Blind Pedestrian Getting Help for Dangerous Intersection

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A Maryland man who recently lost his eyesight begged the state for a safer crosswalk near his Bowie neighborhood, and changes are being made after News4 first told his story Thursday afternoon.

Matthew Barclay lost his sight two years ago.

“It happened pretty fast,” he said. “It was gone in about two to three days.”

Lerner Place crosses Maryland Route 197 about half a mile from Highway 50.

“That's the biggest challenge is getting across the road,” Barclay said.

Fast moving cars stand between Barclay and the walking trail on the other side. 

“I have no central vision so everything that I look at disappears,” he said.

His seeing-eye dog, Neon, won't allow him to cross.

“If I try to go, he'll prevent me from moving forward,” Barclay said. “His whole job is to keep me safe.”

Barclay's neighbor Jim Crowne crosses this road every day for walks, and he wants it to be safer, too.

“I have got no vision impairment, but I've got plenty of fear,” he said.

Barclay complained to Maryland State Highway Administration, which owns the road. They sent out engineers. 

“They all agreed that it was too dangerous for me to cross here, that the traffic patterns were too fast,” Barclay said.

They also said they might not be able to do anything to make it safer for him. 

“There doesn't seem to be any debate about the danger of the intersection,” Maryland Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith, District 23A, said. “The debate is about what he's entitled to in terms of an accommodation.”

Valentino-Smith, who lives near Barclay, said state highway officials believe the road is somehow grandfathered and not subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act. She disagreed with their assessment. 

“The intent of the ADA was to make sure that everyone has universal access,” she said. “We are all striving for that.”

“Although I wanted a pedestrian signal, I would accept anything at this point because I can't get across this street safely,” Barclay said.

Since first airing Barclay’s story, News4 received a statement from the Maryland Department of Transportation's State Highway Administration, saying in part, “MDOT SHA is pleased to inform you that a marked crossing with associated pedestrian signs and down arrows is being recommended for the south leg of MD 197 at Lerner Place. In addition, there will be stop lines with ‘Stop Here for Pedestrians’ signing along both directions of MD 197 approaching the crossing.”

The statement goes on to say they plan to get the work done before the end of the year.

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