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Council Asks SHA to Address Concerns about Rt 1 Reconstruction

SHA presented a summary of the current plans of Route 1 reconstruction design during the August 5, 2015 Worksession. City, County, and University staff have urged SHA to consider some additional changes to create an appropriate landscape buffer for pedestrians and improved safety for cyclists. In the past, SHA has met with City, County, and University officials to review the plans in detail several times since June 2015. These meetings have resulted in a better understanding of some of the design challenges, as well as improvements to the intersection designs, pedestrian crosswalks, and access management from businesses.

At last night’s Council meeting, the City Council expressed its concerns with the planned pedestrian areas and the absence of a raised barrier for the bicycle lanes.

Council is requested to authorize City staff to work with the County, University of Maryland, elected officials, and SHA, as well as the business and property owners along Baltimore Avenue, to create an appropriate buffered pedestrian zone with adequate sidewalks, improved access management onto Baltimore Avenue, the appropriate location of utilities, and improved buffers for bicyclists.

These changes would further the project purpose (as stated in the SHA presentation), which is: To improve safety for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians that travel along the corridor, manage access, and provide aesthetic improvements to establish US 1 as a gateway to the City of College Park and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD-CP).

An important area of concern is best shown by the image from the August 5, 2015 SHA presentation, showing the landscaped buffer and sidewalk adjacent to the Varsity and the View. These developments were required to give SHA a 20-foot easement to create the appropriate pedestrian facilities (new development on the east side is also required to give a 20-foot easement). The landscaped buffer includes trees that can provide shade for pedestrians, the pedestrian lighting, and the utility poles. Across the street, the existing sidewalk is four-feet wide and immediately adjacent to the curb.

The current SHA plan for this section of Baltimore Avenue is shown below. The buffer in front of the Varsity and the View is between two and three feet wide, too narrow for trees and too close to the curb for pedestrian lights and utility poles. The sidewalk is only five-feet wide. On the east side, a five-foot wide sidewalk is planned immediately against the curb, similar to the current situation (although a bike lane will be adjacent to the curb). A five-foot sidewalk is adequate for two pedestrians to pass each other without one person needing to step aside.

City, County, and University staff have expressed to SHA the importance for this area and others to have a safety and landscaped buffer between the curb and the sidewalk, and to ensure the sidewalk width is appropriate for the use. Similar concerns have been expressed regarding the current design for no buffer between the sidewalk and road, and only a five-foot sidewalk near Jenkins Garage, Rita’s, and Comfort Inn, and minimal buffers elsewhere.

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