Donna Weene of College Park said she is glad the State Highway Administration is working on a plan to replace broken and missing sidewalks along U.S. Route 1 — but she said she has been pushing for sidewalk improvements on the state road for about 20 years and wishes officials would move the project along more quickly.
“There’s literally no place to walk,” said Weene, who has lived off of Hollywood Road near Route 1 since 1984. “You’re literally like, walk, stop, walk, stop.”
State Highway Administration officials working on designs to retrofit the sidewalks along Route 1 said the earliest start date for the $450,000 project would be the summer of 2016, and work should take about three months to complete. The improvements would cover a portion of the road of just over one mile, from University Boulevard to Interstate 495.
“It’s definitely an area that state highway would like to move forward,” said Kate Mazzara, assistant district engineer with the highway administration.
Mazzara said funding for the project will be available next year, but the work will take more time because the highway administration will need to coordinate with about 60 businesses to acquire “right of entry,” allowing access to their property to build the sidewalk.
But there is another potential delay for the project. The highway administration is asking College Park to build a six-foot-tall retaining wall in front of a business that sits along a steep portion of the road.
Mazzara and other highway administration officials presented their plan for the Route 1 improvements, including the retaining wall with a suggested cost of $200,000, to the College Park City Council during a July 8 work session.
“The retaining wall is going to be challenging because it is an expensive item,” Mazzara said after the meeting.
While the highway administration will cover the cost of the sidewalk improvements, she said the property where the retaining wall should be built is not state property. However, there are alternatives for the city, she said, such as building the wall using less expensive materials.
College Park Councilman Fazlul Kabir (Dist. 1) said the Route 1 sidewalks have been a safety hazard for years, but the highway administration’s improvement project has been dragging along since he took office two years ago.
“It feels like things are getting a little slower than they should be,” he said, adding that Route 1 is not owned by the city. “We do have huge limitations. We want something to happen quickly but we can only ask them to make it happen.”
Patricia Campbell, who lives off Hollywood Road, said she watches people struggling as they walk along the road. She said she has seen mothers with small children trying to cut across the road because of the missing sidewalks.
“To have to walk into the street is not just unsafe, but an unpleasant experience,” she said. “That little area is kind of rough.”