Commuters and residents along the busy stretch of Baltimore Avenue — as Route 1 is designated in College Park — should prepare for an expanded construction zone after Memorial Day.
The work from the entrance of the University of Maryland campus at College Avenue/Regents Drive to the bridge over Maryland 193 (University Boulevard) will be done in two phases.
Construction will start in the southern portion of the corridor, from College Avenue to Lakeland Road. When that is finished, crews will work on the northern section, from Lakeland Road to Maryland 193. Each phase will last 18 months, the state said.
“We’re trying to minimize the disruption, but there will be disruption,” College Park Mayor Patrick L. Wojahn said, noting that the state has committed to minimize work and closures during rush hour and when there are events at the university. “I hope that people understand that what ultimately results from this project will be significantly better.”
When the project is finished, the road will have two lanes in each direction, a raised 15-foot median with vegetation, a five-foot-wide bike lane in each direction, and a 5-to-8-foot-wide sidewalk. Crews also will rebuild sidewalks, curbs and ramps to make them accessible for people with disabilities. The work also includes improved storm drainage.
“One of the big benefits of the project will be to make it easier to walk and bike and hopefully encourage more people to walk and bike,” Wojahn said.
The road has narrow sidewalks and lacks bike paths. In some places, ramps are needed for accessibility. The roadway’s design — two lanes in each direction and a turn lane at the center — produces unavoidable bottlenecks.
Some intersection improvements should also help with traffic flows.
College Park officials and safety advocates say the upgrades are long overdue to improve safety in an area that has seen significant development and lacks the infrastructure to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. Multiple people have been killed while crossing in the corridor in the past decade.
Getting the project funded and to construction took at least a decade. In 2018, the state estimated it would take up to four years to complete the work and more than a year of utility relocation work. Officials said they were able to trim a year from the schedule and the actual road reconstruction will take three years. The project’s budget, $29 million, is also down from earlier estimates of $40 million.
In a statement, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) called the project a “top priority” for his administration, adding that it “will not only produce a safer, more attractive and less congested U.S. 1, but will spur economic development and recovery in one of the region’s most important corridors.”
Thousands of cars that travel that part of the road near the university campus will be affected by the construction.
The disruption may not be felt as much in the weeks and months ahead as traffic volumes are down significantly because of the pandemic and it is unclear when normal commutes will return.
Drivers should expect single- or double-lane closures to be in effect every day, 24 hours a day on U.S. 1 and on Maryland 193. Officials said pedestrian access will be maintained throughout the project.