As anyone familiar with College Park’s neighborhoods knows, in some neighborhoods officials gone to great lengths to limit traffic on residential streets. Although most were developed with interconnected, gridiron street networks, over the years many streets have been cut off totally or made one way.
The result is what one local resident calls a “traffic labyrinth” where visitors are often bewildered and ask for directions to find a house or even to find the exit. Ironically, the parochial interest in reducing traffic on residential streets may be causing larger traffic headaches on Route 1. Hierarcheal street systems designed around collector roads are notorious for their congestion, since the collector road must carry high volumes of traffic and the entire system is highly sensitive to any problems with the connector roads. In plain English, grid systems like Washington, D.C., allow more drivers to get to more places with fewer back-ups. Urbanists have long argued that grid street designs encourage walking, since the many connections allow walkers to take the shortest routes.
How can College Park get more connected? The boldest plan might involve opening many streets at once for a test period to measure the impact. Because this approach would likely prove politically and financially unfeasible, a more selective approach could work. Although open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, the city’s Trolly Trail we discussed yesterday connects the various segments along the old route of Rhode Island Avenue, enhancing access to many neighborhoods. We hope the city better marks and promotes this recently developed trail.
We also strongly support introducing a grid street system in the East Campus development connecting both to Route 1, Paint Branch Parkway, and the Old Town neighborhood. (Indeed, many early proposals used in university documents show such a design) We think additional intersections on Paint Branch Parkway in particular could slow traffic in the area, enhance walkability, and ease traffic congestion on Route 1.