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.