City council toughens stance on traffic concerns in College Park

By Lindsey Collins

Sulakkhana De Saram dreads her hourlong morning commute through Prince George’s County for more than one reason.  

“I leave my house every day at 7:10 a.m. to get to school at 8:20,” said De Saram, a University of Maryland commuter student. “The traffic is pretty bad the whole way through. I get stuck on literally all the red lights.”

From the driver’s seat of her Toyota RAV4, it is easy for De Saram to see that the crowded roads and many pedestrians pose risky conditions.  

Two weeks ago, the College Park City Council voted unanimously to add speed humps to the 5100-5200 blocks of Mineola Road—even though the traffic conditions did not meet the minimum risk warrants. This vote indicates a tougher stance on fixing safety and traffic concerns within the council.

“We performed a 48-hour traffic study from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, 2017, because it represented the worst traffic conditions,” said Steven Halpern, College Park city engineer. “We found that the average traffic value was 139 [cars], the warrant is 500. We found that the percentage of all vehicles exceeding the 25 mph speed limit by 5 mph was 6.2 percent, the warrant is 15 percent.”

Residents of the affected area sent a petition for traffic calming measures to be taken along Mineola Road, which sits east of Rhode Island Avenue. Of the 28 homes along the mentioned stretch, 60 percent signed the petition, Halpern said.

According to the 2016 Traffic Volume Maps done by the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, most of the traffic in PG County is in College Park.

In general, traffic in the county is concentrated around the University of Maryland where there are many commuter students like De Saram, according to the maps.

Baltimore Avenue, which runs directly parallel to the university, is one of the most crowded stretches of highway in the county, according to the study.

The higher volume of cars is not only a nuisance to commuters and residents, it is also a safety hazard.

Last October, an 18-year-old student was hit by a car and killed just off campus, according to reports. Maria Fisher of Lancaster, Pennsylvania was struck at Baltimore Avenue and Campus Drive around 6:20 a.m. as she tried to cross the street, police said.

“I do see a lot of traffic in this area and that can cause concerns for safety,” University of Maryland Police Department Security Monitor Abbie Korts said. “There’s a lot of cars and pedestrians on the road. One may not be paying attention to the other.”

The College Park City Council says it will continue to listen to the appeals of its residents in order to improve safety and driving conditions across the county.      

“I’ve just been traveling … and it reminded me how difficult it is to get in and out,” said David Dorsch, a College Park resident. “We are stuck. We are in a walled city and we’d like to get that wall opened up.”

 

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