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Safety upgrades begin at deadly Bethesda intersection

ROCKVILLE, Md. — A busy intersection known to serve as a cut-through to Bethesda’s Walt Whitman High School now features flashing lights — a little over a year after a crash killed a student and his parents.

The flashing lights at River Road and Braeburn Parkway are meant to decrease risks for drivers trying to make a left turn from River Road onto the parkway. According to the Maryland State Highway Administration, 45,000 vehicles go through the intersection on River Road each day.

The flashing lights are the first of a number of upgrades slated for the intersection. Other changes in a $300,000 plan include the separation of left-turning vehicles from through traffic on River Road and barring vehicles from making a left turn from Braeburn onto River.

Another change would add safety features at River and Pyle roads, including LED lighting overhead.

The road — which is officially identified as Maryland Route 190 — was the scene of the February 2016 crash that killed Michael Buarque De Macedo, wife Alessandra M. Buarque De Macedo and son Thomas Michael Buarque De Macedo, who was a senior at Walt Whitman. Helena Buarque De Macedo, 15, was seriously injured in the crash.

The family’s car was hit by a vehicle driven by 20-year-old Ogulcan Atakoglu, who police said was driving well over the speed limit.

Some county residents criticized the Maryland State Highway Administration for not acting sooner. Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner told reporters on Monday that the intersection “is a white-knuckle turn” that he used to make back when he drove his own kids to Walt Whitman.

More changes may be ahead as well: According to the administration, traffic engineers are studying the feasibility of closing Braeburn Parkway at River Road and, instead, creating an intersection at River and Pyle roads, combining a traffic light and pedestrian crosswalk.


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