By Jason Dobkin
State officials made multiple safety improvements to the stretch of U.S. Route 1 running alongside this university after three pedestrian fatalities in a six-month span.
The improvements include signs directing pedestrians to crosswalks, crossing signals, a fence on the median between Knox and Hartwick Roads and a decrease in the speed limit between Guilford Road and Berwyn Road from 30 to 25 mph.
The College Park City Council has wanted the Maryland State Highway Administration to make these improvements for a long time, according to council members.
“The city has long felt that U.S. Route 1 needed to be safer, and we’ve been advocating for years, for example, for the pedestrian signal that the State Highway Administration is now installing at Hartwick Road,” College Park councilman Patrick Wojahn said.
“Unfortunately, it took three deaths for SHA to act and make some of these changes we’ve been requesting for so long,” Wojahn said.
Wojahn said that though these improvements are helpful, there is more that needs to be done. College Park councilman Fazlul Kabir agreed.
“It should be an ongoing thing,” Kabir said. “There is no silver bullet.”
Both Kabir and Wojahn said they agree that the median fence is not the best solution to the problem; even though it blocks people from jaywalking, it counteracts the speed limit change.
“Unfortunately, a fence like this makes the road seem more like a highway and will not encourage cars to slow down,” Wojahn said. “What we need to do is engineer the road for slower speeds, for example, give it a ‘road diet’ in which the lanes are narrower and cars feel compelled to drive more slowly.”
Sophomore journalism major Matt Ellentuck said he doesn’t think the changes will do much to keep students safe.
“When someone is intoxicated enough late at night, I don’t think any sign will keep them from running into the middle of the street when they’re not supposed to,” he said.
Wojahn suggested allowing cars to park on the side of the road during non-peak times, which would reduce the likelihood that pedestrians stumble into the street and get hit, and would force drivers to pay more attention.
Kabir said student awareness is a huge component of the situation.
“Maryland state law prohibits jaywalking, and many people don’t even know that,” Kabir said.
Kabir also said police have been giving out more citations in an attempt to spread awareness, but everyone needs to keep working to make U.S. Route 1 safer.