Rectifying Route 1, A Pedestrian’s Perspective: The Intersection at Hartwick Rd

Last night, I crossed Route 1 at Hartwick Road. Once again, I risked my life just to cross a street.

We all know that Route 1 is an unpleasant experience for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. But the line between unpleasant and unacceptable is crossed at this intersection. The intersection lies along College Park’s main retail corridor and is within a quarter mile of UMD’s campus, an area where there is obviously a high level of pedestrian activity.

However, the State Highway Administration and elected officials have continued to disregard pedestrian safety to focus on autocentric policies and projects. What will it take for the city and state to wake up and realize this is a death trap? Do we have to wait until a resident or student is critically injured or killed?

Route 1 and Hartwick, no pedestrians signals
A lack of lighting, no pedestrian signals, no pedestrian islands, and speeding traffic combine to make this intersection extremely unsafe.

The Hartwick Road/Route 1 intersection lies within a stone’s throw of College Park’s main office complex, a CVS, a strip of shops and restaurants, a bank, and a hotel. It provides one of the most direct links between the Metro Station, the aforementioned amenities, and the university. In theory, this intersection should be the epicenter of pedestrian street life in our college town.

Unfortunately, the current design of this intersection completely disregards pedestrian safety in favor of allowing cars to plow through the middle of town at at least 40 miles per hour. There are no traffic islands to allow pedestrians to cross half way at a time and no signals or flashing lights to indicate to motorists that a pedestrian is attempting to cross this street. At night, the intersection is exceptionally dark and a steady flow of left-turning vehicles prohibit drivers from making eye contact with pedestrians.

When will this insanity end!?

A recent email exchange with city engineer, Steve Halpern, led me to believe that it will be later, rather than sooner. In his response, he stated that the State Highway Administration is in the design phase for the “construction of pedestrian ramps and the reconstruction of existing crosswalks.” While this is a start, it hardly scratches the surface in addressing the urgent and dire need to create a safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists along Route 1. Unfortunately, Mr. Halpern’s email also stated that “pedestrian signal improvements will not be a part of this contract.” This means we are unlikely to see any type of traffic light at Hartwick Road any time soon. I fail to understand how this is not a priority.

While we wait for the long-anticipated pedestrian-safety improvements to Route 1, I continue to wonder what it will take for our local and state officials to wake up, recognize one of the greatest threats to our safety in College Park, and take action before it’s too late.

4 thoughts on “Rectifying Route 1, A Pedestrian’s Perspective: The Intersection at Hartwick Rd”

  1. This is particularly bad because of the parking situation. Let’s say I’m picking up a pizza from Vito’s. Here are my choices.
    1) Use the parking garage. Getting in and out of the parking garage, paying, and walking to Vito’s, takes 5 times as long as actually picking up the pizza.
    2) Park illegally on Hartwick on the east side of Route 1. It’s quick enough I probably won’t get a ticket, but it is, you know, illegal.
    3) Park at a meter on Hartwick the west side of Route 1. There’s almost always a space there, or in the lot. Then you end up in the death trap situation described in this article.

  2. I totaled my first car in 1987, making the exact turn shown in the photo above. It’s hard to believe there is still no signal there.

  3. I agree that there needs to be some improved high intensity type of lighting as well from Rt. 193 down into and past Plato’s. I came down Rt 1 from North College Park one night and it was almost impossible to see pedestrians walking or crossing the street even in “downtown” college park.

    This is another aspect of this issue that needs to be addressed. There probably does need to be a light placed there as well.

  4. I could not agree more about the need for a better pedestrian crossing at this intersection! (In fact, I brought up this intersection in a previous comment on Rethink College Park.) What would be the jurisdiction responsible for improving this intersection? Is it the state, county, or city? Aren’t the proceeds from the new speed cameras supposed to be used for public safety? This seems like a really good place for safety improvements.

    The sidewalk on the west side of Route 1 to the south of this intersection is really terrible – it’s especially difficult to navigate with a double stroller – so prefer to cross at Hartwick when heading back home from downtown College Park with my kids. But it is almost impossible to see the cars heading north on Route 1 until they are right at you when you are crossing here. How difficult/expensive would it be to install a pedestrian-activated stoplight here?

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