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College Park City Council appears supportive of still-preliminary design plans for a cycle-centric overhaul of Rhode Island Avenue. But the plans are likely to disappoint some cycling safety advocates, who in previous meetings called for more robust separation between the bicycles and cars.
College Park City Council received an update on the plans for the overhaul during its April 6, 2021, worksession. During the meeting, representatives from engineering firm and project designers RK&K said they were preparing to submit a final design to city officials by the end of June.
The project is broken into two phased sections. Phase one, estimated to cost $530,000, would focus on the stretch of Rhode Island Avenue between University Boulevard and Muskogee Street. This is roughly 90 percent of the entire length of the project area. Phase two focuses on a relatively-small one-black area of Rhode Island Avenue between University Boulevard and Greenbelt Road. This section would require the city to bear the cost of excavating and re-grading the roadway, bringing the cost for this section to $465,000.
Early concepts for the redesigned bike lane called for flex-post barriers to be added to the entire length of the project, which runs from Greenbelt Road in the south to Muskogee Lane in the north. But updated designs presented at a community meeting held Feb. 8, 2021, removed most of those barriers. The removal was criticized then by Garrett Hennigan of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Since that meeting, the design has not changed in this regard.
At the Feb. 8 meeting, the designer said concerns from city public works staff about plowing the roadway plus, the expense of additional barriers motivated them to remove plans for more extensive barriers. While most of the barriers have been removed from the plans, designers plan to reduce the width of the vehicle lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet wide, and add two-foot-wide bicycle lane markings.
In the April meeting, the designers said the removal of the barriers was motivated in part by concerns from the chief of Branchville Volunteer Fire Department about emergency vehicles ablity to pass cars on the two-lane roadway.
Funding for the first phase of the project is included in the city’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July. If all goes as planned, the city could begin soliciting bids for the project shortly afterward. Estimated construction timelines are in the six-month range.