Bus crash draws more attention to Muncaster Mill Road
Feb. 13, 2002
Effie Bathen
Staff Writer

State to spend $10 million on improvements

A bus crash on Muncaster Mill Road that injured a student last Friday morning occurred near a wooden cross that still marks the site of the deadly crash that killed school bus driver Andra King nearly two years ago.

The driver in Friday's incident was not injured, police said, and the 10-year-old passenger suffered only minor injuries.

The driver was "found to be at fault" and cited, said Montgomery County Police spokesman Officer Derek Baliles.

But the larger blame will likely fall again to the narrow, twisting road where three students were injured in May 2000 and King, 33, died instantly.

The Montgomery County Public Schools bus driver and father of six died when a landscaping truck's trailer brakes failed.

The truck's owners were charged with manslaughter after police investigators blamed faulty brakes and not the road as the cause of the crash.

Still, a public outcry led to a state promise to spend $10.2 million on what it calls long-term safety upgrades of the roadway. It was the largest upgrade project for the county in Gov. Parris N. Glendening's capital transportation budget.

Since King's death, the highway administration has slashed tree branches to improve the line of sight, widened some shoulders, improved at least two intersections, and added signs and more visible street markings.

Those changes were paid for as short-term safety improvements, said Sandra Dobson, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration. "That hasn't touched the $10 million," she added.

The highway administration will develop a few long-term options and present them at public meetings in June, Dobson said.

The changes, she said, will not be linked to the current debate over the Upper Rock Creek Master Plan or renewed talks about the Intercounty Connector, the proposed highway to link Gaithersburg to Laurel.

She said the multi-million-dollar safety project "will go on regardless of what other decisions are made."

Dobson said she could not estimate when the work would be completed, but said that state plans call for spending the money this year.

Friday's incident occurred at 9:06 a.m. near Grist Mill Drive, according to the police record.

Driver Terri Albert, 34, of Boonsboro, claimed that after cresting a hill, she swerved to the right in order to avoid a car. The bus hit a utility pole with its left front section, Baliles said.

The road was wet, he said.

The bus was traveling from Clarksburg to Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Aspen Hill, officials said.

Traffic on the two-lane road came to a halt for more than an hour.

In addition to Friday's bus crash on the road, three ambulance crew members suffered minor injuries Oct. 16 in the same area.

In April of last year, about 11 months after King's death, another county school bus collided with a sedan and a Sandy Spring Friends School bus at the intersection of Muncaster Mill and Redland roads.

Stephen Joseph, chairman of the Upper Rock Creek Master Plan Advisory Group, was in the third car behind Albert's bus when it ran off Muncaster Mill on Friday.

"Obviously," he said, "that five miles from Redland to Norbeck has become one of the most dangerous roads in Montgomery County."