We’ve done a number of posts outlining the safety situation where the College Park Trolley Trail crosses Paint Branch Parkway. Since the City and County spearheaded initial “improvements” to the crossing, there have been three serious accidents. The City Council stepped in this October demanding that further improvements be made and Councilmember Stephanie Stullich in particular has been fighting for changes. At an October Council meeting:
“Well, I believe that we need a red light there. You know drivers usually stop for red lights. Drivers see a flashing yellow light and they don’t think that means stop,” Stullich said during the presentation. “I’m really afraid we’re going to have someone killed there. I dread that it’s not safe. The two people who were hurt could have easily been killed.”
In November Andre’ Issayans, Deputy Director of the County Department of Public Works and Transportation, criticized the City “for pushing what he called an inherently dangerous location for the crosswalk,” and noted that the crossing “didn’t have nearly enough pedestrian traffic to justify a stoplight.” According to Issayans at the time:
The county follows federal highway guidelines, which require 100 or more pedestrians crossing per hour for at least four hours or at least 190 for any one hour, plus fewer than 60 gaps in traffic per hour. When the county last studied pedestrian traffic at the crosswalk several years ago, traffic engineers observed only around 30 pedestrians over several hours, Issayans said.
Now it appears those federal guidelines have changed! According to BikePortland.org, the Federal Highway Administration 135-page comprehensive update, the first in 6 years, to their Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) that just changed guidelines for biking infrastructure and signage. These new guidelines are the first acknowledgment from the federal government that bicycles are a legitimate part of the road network. From BikePortland.org:
One source I spoke to this morning said the most important change to the MUTCD has to do with criteria used to determine when a traffic signal can be installed. The new MUTCD makes it easier for engineers to install traffic signals where bikeways and trails cross larger arterial streets based not just on volume of non-motorized traffic, but on how long of a delay they experience.
This is crucial, because engineering analysis of some crossings would yield low counts of biking and walking traffic simply because the crossing is so intimidating and dangerous. Now, with the new rules, this catch-22 is avoided and the decision is much more friendly to biking and walking traffic that it has been in the past.