End of Paint Branch Pkwy Saga?

paint branch crossing
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.

11 thoughts on “End of Paint Branch Pkwy Saga?”

  1. SWEET!! thanks to David for digging up this great info. Now all we need is for M-DOT to step up and make it happen. We need a OVERHEAD red light. Just changing the existing flashing lights to red will not be enough.

  2. I can’t believe they are considering stopping a 4 lane road for 30 seconds for one pedestrian to cross.. and then do it again 2 minutes later when another pedestrian happens to be in the same place. It seems so many things in College Park are built ass-backwards (excuse my language) in terms of fluidizing traffic, that this is just another step in making the trip to the metro station longer.

  3. This sounds like an excellent development, and something that the College Park city council really needs to push with the county. I am not familiar with the federal guidelines, but it seems to me that if they are only guidelines, and not standards, then a jurisdiction could use its judgment – as well as traffic and pedestrian/bicyclist counts – in deciding whether or not to install a signal. I’ve often wondered if anyone in the PG County Department of Public Works is actually a civil engineer – according the Code of Ethics of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “engineers shall hold paramount the safe, health, and welfare of the public”, and PG County Public Works certainly does not seem to care much about this.

    Another crossing that I find dangerous is the crosswalk where Hartwick Road crosses Route 1, just south of the CVS. There is no signal here, and it is hard to see cars that are traveling north on Route 1 due to the slight hill there. People cross here all the time, since walking to the other crosswalks with lights can be really out of the way. Does anyone else think that this would be another good location for a signal?

  4. As a past resident of CP, I sympathize with the locals on this; the crossing provides a good alternative connecting link in the City. Unfortunately, CP, like all municipalities, isn’t in control of all the roads in their jurisdiction. This makes dreaming big (and completing those dreams) more burdensome. I think the best (long-term) solution is for every incorporated jurisdiction to take over ownership/maintenance of all county roads that are inside their jurisdiction. Some of the smaller municipalities might not have the tax base to do it, but CP and other jurisdictions of similar size could.

    Regarding DPWT, of which I am not a part of, I can say the director is eminently qualified:

    From a press release:
    “Hijazi [the director], a native of Syria, holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Damascus University; a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from George Washington University and a doctorate in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland. Hijazi, of Mitchellville, is a registered professional engineer in Maryland and Washington, D.C. and a registered land surveyor in Maryland.”

  5. IMO (and as I’ve been saying all along on Washcycle), this is a trademark location for using the HAWK signal, which I think would solve the problem better than a traditional traffic signal.

  6. I agree that the level of pedestrian traffic does not warrant a traffic light, but some additional flashing lights (that are embedded in the crosswalk) would improve visibility and pedestrian safety. These embedded crosswalk lights are already in operation at the crosswalk on River Road, near the intersection with Paint Branch Pkwy.

  7. Updated regs should require a new analysis. Then the only issue should be the cost of any upgrade. A new cost of $50,000+ I believe, means it might not happen soon.

  8. This morning the signal had a larger permanent looking sign saying that it was disabled.

    Does anyone know why?

    Doesn’t really matter, I stopped hitting the button, pushing it just made it more dangerous having one or 2 cars stop, when the rest are just rushing past.

  9. I am not surprised that others were injured, I felt that all the new items in the highway there just seemed to cause a “visual clutter” effect and made it more difficult to tell when someone was actually about to try to cross the highway.

    Over in Arlington, they built a walking bridge over Route 50, a very busy highway in such a way that someone in a wheelchair, riding a bike or walking could cross using the bridge.

    I like those Hawk lights, but I think it will be a temporary solution and not workable once more traffic is on the highway. I would support setting those up in a portable solution that the “State” could actually move to another location later. This should be able to be designed that way.
    Perhaps it could be a University/CP/State collaboratively funded effort, in that the lights could be used during UM or other CP Events when and where needed after a pedestrian bridge is installed at that location? Why can’t they be mobile? Perhaps someone smarter than I could try to find funding for this type of solution? What a great project for some UM students to find, help write and research such grants and or funding.

    Traffic on that highway is only going to increase significantly, especially if East Campus ever comes to fruition, since they were supposed to “try” and push all or a most of the traffic onto it instead of Route 1. Plus there will be the Purple Line coming through there as well.

    I would rather see a pedestrian bridge, built taking into consideration the possibility of the future widening of the highway and the Purple Line as well. I think that would be the way to go….

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