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The saga of the Trolley Trail crossing at Paint Branch Parkway continues. The Diamondback reports that in a City Council meeting earlier this month, local officials intend to install “speed-monitoring” cameras at the wildly dangerous crossing. This is just one more step in an attempt to make the crossing safer after several years of complaints to the County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation. As we reported in June 2007, County Councilman Eric Olson spearheaded an effort that eventually led to the implementation of various safety measures at the crossing that included signage, rumble strips, a pedestrian “refuge” in the middle of the road, and a pedestrian activated signal. Unfortunately (we imply no fault of local officials), the effort led to a meager 4 foot wide pedestrian refuge in the median of the 35-mph thoroughfare and a flashing yellow light, which as a Washcycle commenter (Me) complained by August of 2007, was a “big disappointment and a big waste of money.” Try holding a bike on that pedestrian refuge and keeping your life. It should be at least 6 feet, if not 8.
The fundamental problem is that we’ve introduced an unfamiliar pedestrian element into what is, for all intents and purposes, a high speed thoroughfare. This new “element”, which was installed sometime in 2008, brings a false sense of security to pedestrians/bicyclists and only marginally increases safety at the crossing. Drivers are not use to pedestrian activated mid-block crossings in this region and yellow flashing lights are interpreted as “caution” or “yield” and not “stop” to most drivers. The latter point explains why you often see drivers zooming by school buses with yellow lights blaring just before bus stop signs are unfurled. Is it any surprise that we’ve seen three serious accidents here in just over a year?
We think the county/city need to hire a traffic engineer to analyze options for the crossing, rather than councilmembers introducing more stop-gap measures. It would be far more productive to punch Rhode Island Ave through the adjacent sound barrier and create a real T-intersection with a traffic light. That would create a safe Trolley Trail Crossing and go a long way towards correcting the labyrinth of a street network in Old Town CP and alleviating traffic on Route 1. With the gap in the Trolley Trail between Paint Branch Pkwy and Calvert Rd to be closed next Spring, now would be a great time to concoct such an intersection. Alas, that would take a small miracle of local politics! The least we can do is make improvements to Paint Branch Parkway that make it more appropriate to its lower speed urban future as the doorstep to East Campus (narrow the lanes).