Reconstructing Route 1

centerlane.gifThe two-mile stretch of Baltimore Avenue (Route 1) from the Northgate of campus to the Beltway could easily be mistaken for a Hooverville. The prevalence of abandoned and blighted properties combined with the unforgiving traffic congestion and safety concerns make traveling this section of road a dread. Fortunately, the state has drawn up plans to spend $110 million to reconstruct this entire length of Route 1.

We obtained from the State Highway Administration (SHA) the design document for the reconstruction project. Though the scope of the project extends from College Avenue all the way to just north the of Beltway, the project has yet to receive full funding. To make reconstruction more fiscally palatable to the state, both the City Council and University recommended that just the section nearest the campus (from College Avenue to MD-193, specifically) receive priority for the project. If the state declares this portion too ambitious for the state treasury, the University would settle for just College Avenue to just north of Paint Branch Parkway.

Besides the array of safety statistics and pedestrian volume diagrams, the SHA design document includes the following features for Route 1:

  • Replacement of the center turn-lane (often colorfully called “the suicide lane”) with a tree-studded median. Occasional left-turn lanes will be cut into the median at certain points to consolidate all left-turning traffic.
  • Inclusion of occasional cut-outs for bus stops. Currently, stopped buses on Route 1 tie up traffic. The state hopes to mitigate the blockage with cut-outs like the one adjacent the Nymburu Amphitheater on Campus Drive.
  • Continuous sidewalks set back from the roadway. Sidewalk coverage on Route 1 is spotty at best and those that do exist often require pedestrians to walk within two feet of speeding traffic. The design document shows most stretches of sidewalk separated from the roadway by a strip of grass, itself occasionally studded with trees. (See below for the SHA rendering)
  • Elimination of the ridiculous intersection at The View. The View would no longer need the land underneath #1 Liquor to connect to Route 1 properly. The state proposes eliminating the light and left-turn onto Navahoe Street but keeping the intersection at Berwyn House Road, opposite The View’s northern Route 1 driveway (though the driveway and Berwyn House Road do not meet cleanly, one can resolve this easily) . Since the drawings were put together before the construction of The View they neglect to place a light at the Berwyn House Road-Route 1-View driveway intersection. This is easily resolved. (See below)

A few drawings to note:

Above: The portion of Route 1 in front of The View and McDonald’s.

Below: Section drawings for what Route 1 will look like. Hopefully all utilities will be buried.

Transportation Hearing in Review

The PG County transportation hearing in College Park City Hall last night drew a probably unprecedented number of people to the council chambers. After some short presentations from the county, there was a seeminglyExample of unending procession of local politicians and community members lined up for the podium to request that the county government prioritize or eliminate this, that, or the other transportation project.
Everyone in attendance seemed avidly pro-transit and anti-highway and there was of course a large contingent of anti-ICC protesters doling out stickers. The interesting thing was that while everyone wanted more transit, relatively few people talked about the necessity of smart growth and infill development that makes transit feasible and trail extensions (great proposals by the way) prudent. Indeed, it’s hard to distinguish what is more important – development or transportation.
Why is bridging that 1.5 miles of farmland between the beltway and 193 so tempting to UMD administrators? We think it’s because that is the system we have built for ourselves and that is the pattern of land use that is easiest to articulate to passive observers of the debate. How, everyone seems to be wondering, with all this new development, is College Park going to be able to handle all the traffic? It’s up to elected officials to articulate this if they expect to avert the Connector Road.

Get Cash to Buy a House in CP

House ClipartConsidering buying a home in College Park? Two city programs are offering thousands of dollars in cash to help ease the financial burden — if you meet certain requirements.

Under the city’s New Neighbors Program (sometimes referred to as the ‘home conversion program’), the city will offer home buyers $5,000 towards the purchase of a single-family home in College Park, provided the property was previously rented for at least two years and the recipient agrees to live in it for at least five years. Full-time police officers are eligible for grants of $7,500. University of Maryland employees may also participate in the Live Near Your Work Program, which provides $3,000 towards the closing costs of a home purchased in College Park or certain surrounding areas.

Contact the city for more information or applications for either of these programs, as both are funded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Although the first program is likely inspired by the City Council’s ongoing political agenda to keep student renters out of the city’s residential neighborhoods, we doubt it has had or will have a significant impact on housing affordability or owner occupancy. We only wish the city would rely on the simplest mechanism to reduce prices — the market — and allow or encourage new rental construction near campus and along Route 1 not burdened with city-mandated owner-occupancy requirements.