Following the reemergence of Route 5 traffic safety projects in 2008 and this semester’s plans for traffic calming from North Fields to Historic St. Mary’s City, plans are underway to begin main construction projects this summer.
“The goal of traffic calming is to create a safer area for pedestrians and cars to use Route 5,” said Dan Branigan, Director of Design and Construction for the College. “We’re planning sidewalks, lighting, curbs, medians, splitting islands, and other things to separate traffic from pedestrians.”
The speed limit on the portion of Route 5 that passes near the campus is 30 miles per hour, but is 50 mph near the Green Door and quickly slows to 40 mph near the campus. These conditions, combined with the road’s width, lack of traffic-slowing structures, and diminished lighting, make Route 5 a potential hazard for pedestrians and drivers that are near the campus on a daily basis.
The master plan for traffic calming includes projects from the North Fields section of Route 5 and south on 5 until Rosecroft Road near Historic St. Mary’s City. A large sidewalk will start just north of College Drive, according to Branigan, with bicycle lanes on the sides of the highway and a general narrowing of the road to slow vehicles entering the new speed limit zone. More streetlights and sidewalks will be placed farther south, with islands in the road at intersections to College Drive and Historic St. Mary’s City to guide turning traffic.
In addition, the intersection to the River Center will be shifted from its current 140-degree angle with Route 5 to 90 degrees, making the turn easier for northbound traffic and slowing southbound traffic turning onto the road. Accompanying the crosswalks (which will be moved closer to intersections to make their use safer and more convenient) will be “bumpouts,” extended curbs that narrow Route 5 to slow traffic for pedestrian crossing.
The final phase of the project will be to make an intersection to Route 5 with the Historic St. Mary’s City entrance and the Campus Center parking lot entrance, which will be done as the parking lot is being extended for student and Historic St. Mary’s City use.
“We’re hoping to get construction going this summer,” said Branigan, “to time it near Anne Arundel Hall construction.”
The projects will be discussed with community members and students during one of the Open Houses in Spring 2012, but the College will meet with the State Highway Administration later this month. Project plans haven’t been changed since the recent accident involving a Penn Line truck and student, but are being continued, according to Branigan, to prevent accidents like this from occurring.
“I think, especially for the lower crosswalk, there needs to be more done to illuminate them during the night,” said senior Jeff Gibson. “During the day it’s fine, less people are in a rush and they are attentive. But at night, you’re dealing with exhausted drivers, often speeding to get home.”
“I think something needs to be done, but I’m not sure of the best way,” said Biology Professor Samantha Elliott. “I don’t think there’s enough traffic to justify lights, and with extensive road work for islands, I would be concerned about the impact on the river. But safety is a major concern because many people cross that road on a daily basis.”
“Cars who know the area know to slow down at night,” said senior Elizabeth Bromley, “but visitors don’t as much, and the signs on the crosswalks aren’t as visible during the evening.”