The intersection of Paint Branch Parkway, Campus Drive and Baltimore Avenue (Route 1) is notorious for its long backups and massive breadth. In just a few years the State Highway Administration will hopefully reconstruct Route 1 from downtown College Park all the way to just beyond the Beltway. One solution the state could implement at this massive intersection is a traffic circle. Compared to traditional intersections they are prettier, eliminate the need for traffic lights, and in College Park’s case would create a visual focal point for a road littered with rundown architecture.
Though such circles are largely foreign to Americans outside DC, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has shown that circles reduce the number and severity of accidents (even those involving pedestrians, bikes, and mopeds) at the traditional crossroads they replace. The FHA suspects the reduction in accidents is a result of the fact that drivers must slow down as they approach the circle. Others suspect that the relative rarity of such traffic devices forces drivers to pay closer attention.
Building a circle at this location has some additional advantages. First, it maintains the historic Founders’ Gate, which is located in the only grassy median at the intersection. A grassy circle would thus reflect the setting of the historic gateway. Second, the circle would eliminate nine turn-lanes currently at the intersection, thus ameliorating what is now a asphalt field. Third, the circle could include an entry road to East Campus thus providing a prominent view into the development. However, if an East Campus entrance is unsuitable, the circle would also provide more street-fronting space for a landmark work of architecture at the corner of the East Campus development.
Aesthetic skeptics might want to compare the status quo with other local examples such as downtown’s Logan Circle or the DC line-straddling Chevy Chase Circle, which successfully accommodates the heavy commuter traffic of Connecticut Avenue.