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Council to Ask SHA and County Council to Help Fund Route 1 Reconstruction in North College PArk

Recently, I asked the City Council to consider sending a letter to the SHA/MDOT thanking them for their announcement on the reconstruction of Route 1 in south College Park and asking them to start rebuilding Route 1 in North College Park. Segments 2 and 3 of the reconstruction in the north College Park has not been funded—there is no money in the draft six-year Consolidated Transportation Plan for engineering, right-of-way acquisition, and construction for the segments from MD 193 to the Capital Beltway. The City has requested the State to include funding for the rest of the project but has been unsuccessful thus far.

Prince George’s County annually submits a Transportation Priorities Letter to the State indicating the County priority for State transportation projects. The County lists funding of segments two and three of the Baltimore Avenue project as a third priority of nine projects. The County’s first priority is interchange improvements at I-495 and Arena Drive, and the second priority is an interchange and intersection improvements at several locations on MD 210. It’s important to send a request to the County council that it makes the Baltimore Avenue project a higher priority in its letter to the State and also consider sending a letter again to MDOT requesting funding for segments two and three.

Given the long timeframe for project engineering; the long delays in bringing Phase 1 to construction; and the importance this project for the safety of drivers and pedestrians in College Park, the Council will consider approving two separate letters to the County Council and the MDOT urging MDOT to fund planning, engineering, and right-of-way acquisition for Segments 2 and 3. We hope to approve these letters at tomorrow’s Council meeting.

Do Not Block the Box Signs Will be Installed this Month


Good news! The SHA is telling now that the “Do Not Block the intersection” boxes will be installed at both Edgewood Rd and Cherry Hill Rd intersections on Route 1 this month (in October 2018). Also, a crosswalk will be installed for the west leg of the US 1 and Cherry Hill Road Intersection (by Spring 2019). Thank you for your patience and advocacy.

Representatives from the State Highway Administration (SHA) will talk more about this project at tomorrow’s City Council meeting when they will come and give an annual update of the existing SHA projects in the city. The representatives will also provide an update on the following projects as well.

(a) Rhode Island Ave and Greenbelt Rd (MD 430) Intersection:
The City requested SHA evaluate the installation of medians at the Greenbelt Rd (MD 430) / Rhode Island Ave intersection to further calm traffic and provide refuge areas for those crossing Greenbelt Rd. This would eliminate the pedestrian and bicyclist crash pattern at the access for the College Park Trolley Trail.

The project proposes to install medians along MD 430 from west of Rhode Island Avenue to west of MD 193 (University Boulevard). Additionally, small sidewalk improvements are needed to address the permanent closure of the south leg of Rhode Island Avenue.

Currently, the project is in design with an anticipated completion date of Spring 2019. Construction will be completed under an Areawide Geometric Construction during Summer 2019.

(b) Rhode Island Ave and University Blvd (MD 193):
A traffic study was completed and the current configuration does not have the capacity to support the vehicles traveling thru the intersection.

The proposed improvements will extend the left turn lane of eastbound MD 193 by 200’, provide an additional thru lane on westbound MD 193, and extend the southbound right turn lane on Rhode Island Avenue by 300’.

The project is currently in design and is anticipated to be complete Summer 2019. The project is funded for design only.

(c) Beltway Widening Project: The project will include improvements for over 70 miles of interstate in Maryland including: I-495 (Capital Beltway) from south of the American Legion Bridge over the Potomac River to east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and I-270 (Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Highway) from I-495 to I-70, including the east and west I-270 spurs.

Route 1 Undergrounding – Additional Information

I came across a vibrant discussion about tonight’s Council vote on undergrounding utilities on Route 1 (from MD 193 to College Avenue). I, however, saw some important information are missing in the discussion and I thought I should share that with you.

Route 1 is owned by the SHA (State Highway Administration), and not the City. Though the SHA was supportive to the idea of undergrounding in the beginning, they told the City last year (May 18, 2015) that a letter of commitment from the City to fund the undergrounding of utilities was needed by June 8, 2015 in order to maintain the project schedule of the Route 1 reconstruction. The Council expressed our deep disappointment with the SHA decision (in a letter dated June 9, 2015,) that they are asking the City to commit to the funding of Route 1 reconstruction, even though they did not complete the design (SHA only did 33% design). On August 2, 2015, the SHA came before Council meeting and said they are moving with the design that only includes the aerial location of utility lines, and they don’t plan to underground utilities on Route 1. At the same meeting, the SHA told us that the right of way (ROW) acquisition of the properties along Route 1 for the aerial relocation of utility lines would begin in around Spring this year.

Personally, I like the idea of undergrounding and its effect on revitalizing College Park, and I also voted to support the design work in the past. However, with the current status of the project with the SHA, and with the fact that the SHA is not currently on board with College Park on undergrounding, and we don’t have a complete design ready, our planning staff thinks that it will be extremely difficult to win the TIGER grant, not to mention the very competitive nature of the application process.

Yesterday morning, I’ve asked our staff to reach out to our SHA representative and find a few important status about undergrounding and its relation to the TIGER grant application. My questions include (1) Has the property acquisition along Rt 1 already started? If not, when do the SHA plan to start? (2) Will SHA postpone / scrap their current aerial relocation plan if College Park decides to apply for the TIGER grant? And (3) Will SHA support College Park’s request for the TIGER grant application?

I’ve yet to receive responses to these questions.

SHA Plans to Build Crosswalk on Cherry Hill Rd near Route 1

The SHA has responded to a request about a pedestrian facility along west side of US 1 between Cherry Hill Road and Edgewood Road/Ramp from Inner Loop.

Today, there is no pedestrian crossing on the west leg of Cherry Hill Road or across the ramp from Inner Loop (missing pedestrian signals). Some sidewalk links are missing too within this section.

These pedestrian improvements have been approved for design but the project was not initiated in the hope of combining it with the US 1 at I-495/Edgewood Road interchange modification project.

Given that the interchange modification project has at least a five year timeline for design and construction, the SHA has revisited our approach. The SHA has initiated the design to modify the signals at Cherry Hill Road and at Edgewood Road/Ramp from inner loop, which they hope to complete this year and construction by mid 2017.

There is a downside of this approach. The improvement projects at US 1/Edgewood Road project will (possibly) have to be modified again (in at least three years time) to accommodate the interchange improvements. The SHA is saying they are happy to accommodate this as it improves pedestrian safety both in the near-term and in the long-term.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

[Source: SHA Communication with College Park]

City to Express Disappointment about Undergrounding on Route 1

Here is the letter on the Rt. 1 undergrounding we’ll consider approving at tomorrow’s meeting. We’re truly disappointed that the undergrounding is not going to happen after spending $150,000 of our residents’ tax dollars
————————————–
Douglas H.Simmons
Acting Administrator State Highway Administrator
707 North Calvert Street Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Re: Reconstruction of US 1

Dear Mr. Simmons:

In a letter dated May 18, 2015 to Mayor Fellows, SHA explained that a letter of commitment from the City of College Park to fund the undergrounding of utilities was needed by June 8, 2015 in order to maintain the current project schedule. This request was made at the same time meetings were being held between SHA, Senator Rosapepe and Mayor Fellows in order to more fully understand the design elements of the project as well as issues surrounding construction funding and timing. In fact, the city is still engaged with SHA on these matters and looks forward to a presentation to the City Council on August 5, 2015.

The City is surprised and disappointed that we have been given this deadline without having the underground design completed and the opportunity to explore funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program. When the city executed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SHA last August, it was our expectation that aerial and underground plans would be designed concurrently and would be able to be compared side by side. Work on these plans by KCI Technologies did not begin until December 2014 and the only meeting to discuss these plans (30%) with the city was held on March 31, 2015 at city staff’s request. The City is in receipt of documentation showing that 33% of the work associated with the project was completed at the end of February even though invoices received and paid by the city through April total only $51,273 or 17% of the estimated cost of these services.

It is distressing to learn now that a decision on funding undergrounding utilities must be made before the design process is completed and in order to engage utility companies in the design process. This was certainly not the city’s understanding when the MOU was signed and there is nothing in the MOU language that would indicate this to be the case. Under the circumstances, however, the city must ask that SHA terminate the undergrounding design and incur no further financial obligations under the MOU.

It has always been the City’s goal to obtain the best possible outcome for this project, and we sincerely believe that placing the utilities underground would help to make the reconstruction of Route 1 an exceptional complete streets project that all stakeholders could be proud of. We will continue to work with your staff to ensure that this is a model project, even without undergrounding, that addresses the multi-modal needs of the community and enhances the sense of place along the corridor.

Sincerely,
Andrew M. Fellows
Mayor

City Seeks Funds for Route 1 Undergrounding Work

City is considering to propose a grant request to pay for 50% of the design and bidding package for the undergrounding of utilities associated with the reconstruction of US 1 from College Avenue to MD-193. State Highway Administration has set the cost of this work at an amount not to exceed $300,000; therefore, the CL application will request funding in the amount of$150,000.

Applications for FY 2015 Community Legacy (CL) funding are due to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) by July 15, 2014 and require a City Council resolution. For FY 2014, the City submitted an application for $75,000 to expand the Commercial Tenant Improvement Program that was previously funded through an FY 2013 application, but it was not approved for additional funding. In FY 2012, the City received $75,000 for the demolition of vacant and blighted buildings on Route 1, which is in the
process of being closed out.

During a training session on May 14, 2014, the DHCD announced that FY 2015 CL funding would be $6,000,000 statewide. CL funds are aimed at strengthening communities through activities such as business retention and attraction, encouraging homeownership, and public infrastructure improvements. Projects must be consistent with the City’s approved Sustainable Community Plan.

City Council will discuss the matter in more details at next Tuesday’s worksession. Staff is recommending approval of the attached resolution authorizing the City Manager to file a FY 2015 application for the Community Legacy program requesting $150,000 in grant funds.

Storm Damages College Park Apartment Roof, Closes Route 1

Damage roof in front of Enclave apartment (Credit: WTOP)

A severe store has hit our area, causing some damages in College Park.

WTOP is reporting that the Enclave apartment building is damaged along Route 1 near Greenbelt Road.

Baltimore Avenue is now closed northbound at Campus Drive/Paint Branch Parkway. Please follow police direction. SHA is on scene redirecting traffic and will clear road. Public Services staff, code and parking officers, are doing damage check city-wide.

7:01PM: The NBC Washington is reporting the apartment is evacuated

Council Mulls Asking SHA to Fund Route 1 Undergrounding Through TIGER Grants

Power lines on Route 1

Power lines on Route 1

In tomorrow’s Council meeting, the City Council will vote whether it should send a letter to the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) to request an additional year to decide whether to pursue undergrounding of utilities in the stretch between Paint Branch Parkway and Greenbelt Road on Route 1.

SHA has indicated that the project, including the rebuild and undergrounding of utilities, would be a good candidate for a grant through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant; however, TIGER grants are generally meant for projects that are ready to begin construction, and the project will not be eligible until after design and engineering is completed.

Accordingly, the staff has advised that the Council sending a letter requesting that SHA proceed with completion of design and engineering of phase 1 of the Route 1 rebuild, and the City providing $300,000 to fund additional design and engineering to allow for undergrounding utilities, while the City and SHA jointly pursue a TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funding would be contingent on SHA submitting the TIGER grant request; if it does not, then the City would require that SHA reimburse the funds.

However, if the application is not successful, the SHA will not be required to return the money back to the City. The chance of getting the grant is very slim and the grant will not fund 100% of the total cost of the project. According to DOT’s TIGER website, in last year, a total of 585 projects were applied, however only 55 of them were actually awarded. This puts the chance of getting the award to less than 10%.

Although this could result in a delay to the Route 1 construction project, construction is currently not funded and is not in the State’s 2014-2019 Consolidated Transportation Program.

The 21st District delegation has raised concerns that any delay could hurt the ability to continue the project and obtain funding for construction , which could potentially delay the Route 1 development in north College Park by several years. The design and engineering cost of $300,000 is not currently not funded in FY15 budget and will most likely come from City’s reserve fund.

Staff hopes to be able to obtain funding through the TIGER grant program to proceed on a parallel track with undergrounding of the utilities during this first phase or during subsequent phases.

City Council Asks SHA to Improve Pedestrian Safety on Route 1

At last night’s Council meeting, the City Council discussed a number of ideas to improve the pedestrian safety on Route 1, especially in light of last weekend’s tragic accident at the Knox Road intersection. Here is the text of that letter we decided to send to the SHA.

April 15, 2014

Ms. Melinda B. Peters, Administrator
State Highway Administration
707 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

Dear Ms. Peters:

On behalf of our residents, students, and visitors, I would like to convey to you our strongest request that SHA implement—in the most expeditious time possible—significant pedestrian safety improvements along Baltimore Avenue in the City of College Park. On April 11, 2014 we suffered the second pedestrian fatality this year when 23-year-old Carlos Pacanins was killed on Baltimore Avenue in downtown College Park. Cory Hubbard, a 22-year-old student, was killed in January in the same area.

Over the years, the State, the County, and the City have conducted studies and have implemented some safety improvements. SHA is currently finishing a Pedestrian Road Safety Audit for Baltimore Avenue, and a County working group involving State, City, and University stakeholders has convened to identify solutions. We appreciate these important efforts.

Without pre-judging the current processes or additional recommendations that may come from these activities, the City Council and I urge you to designate the area a pedestrian zone, and implement the following steps within the Pedestrian Road Safety Audit area (Berwyn Road to Guilford Road):

• Install pedestrian count-down lights for all sides of Baltimore Avenue intersections
• Use automatic flashing “walk” signals with a green light
• Install better lighting along Baltimore Avenue and at the intersections
• Lower the speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour
• At the soonest opportunity, present the final Pedestrian Road Safety Audit report to the City Council and include a timeline to implement the recommended safety improvements.

The City of College Park will examine its pedestrian lighting and other aspects of pedestrian safety that it can influence, including increased policing, education and outreach activities. However, we need SHA to address the items above so that we significantly and permanently reduce the risk of auto-pedestrian incidents in the shortest time period possible.

Thank you for your attention to this issue, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Andrew M. Fellows
Mayor

Route 1 Pedestrian Safety Takes the Spotlight After Fatal Accident

Pedestrian Safety on Route 1

Pedestrian Safety on Route 1

This Sunday, another pedestrian died from serious injuries he suffered after he was struck on Route 1 near the University of Maryland.

Carlos Pacanins, a senior from Bethesda, died from his injuries. He was a few weeks away from graduating with a degree in political science, the Hatchet reports.

According to the Diamondback, it happened just before midnight at the intersection of Route 1 and Knox Road. Prince George’s County Fire Department and paramedics responded to the scene, and transported a man in his early 20s to a trauma center.

According to reports, this is not the first time this intersection has seen tragedy. In January, a hit- and-run driver struck and killed a pedestrian at the same location. Cory Hubbard, 22, was a UMD student. He was also not in a crosswalk at the time.

Carlos was probably jay walking, which is illegal in the State. The police can always cite pedestrians for violating the laws, but I think we should do more to prevent such accidents to happen in future. If you get involved in an accident, you should contact a personal injury attorney. You may call a personal injury lawyer like the Yonkers Accident Attorney. Professional personal injury lawyers can help you get the right compensation you deserve from the injuries you’ve sustained. In such a situation, expert witness in your area must be hired in order to achieve the justice needed and the rightful compensation.

One idea is to build fences on the street medians. For example the Takoma Park built the fence after to prevent Jaywalking on University Blvd/ http://takomalangley.org/about.php.

As you know, the Route 1 is going through some design changes. It’s a good time to discuss these issues to improve pedestrian safety there. We plan to discuss this matter with other stkeholders – SHA, UMD and the County.

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