Some of College Park's intersections along Route 1 are now safer and more efficient after the State Highway Administration changed traffic lights and pedestrian crossings at the end of August, Prince George's County Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros said.
Glaros said her constituents in College Park and the neighboring areas reached out to her in fall 2016 and expressed concerns that the lights on Route 1 were not linked properly, causing drivers to wait at several different lights in the downtown stretch of the city.
In August, College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn sent a letter to the SHA asking the state to sync all of the lights from Hotel Drive to Guilford Drive and add a new signal called the exclusive pedestrian option at Knox Road.
The option allows a period of time — in addition to normal crossing time — when traffic on all four sides of the intersection is stopped, allowing for pedestrians to cross in any direction safely.
"You have a town of college students who tend to try to walk no matter the signal, so I feel like if it's going to be safer for pedestrians, it's a good thing," said Ryan Milley, a senior government and politics major.
In addition to the pedestrian option, the SHA removed the left-hand turn signal at the intersection of Knox Road and Route 1.
"Since the synchronization of the signals was out of whack, it caused some traffic and backups extending to more backups on Knox Road," Wojahn said. "State Highway [Administration] recognized that they needed to change something in the intersection, and the only way to properly do that was to rid of the left-hand turn signal."
By removing the turn signal, that intersection has become more efficient, Glaros said. Data collected shows the wait time at the Knox Road light decreased from an average of 153 seconds to 120 seconds.
The adjustments to the intersections were done soon after Wojahn made the request on Aug. 8, but Glaros said the SHA repeatedly had to come back to tweak the new signals, making them fully functional by the first week of September.
"Traffic is now synchronized, and traffic on Route 1 should flow more smoothly," Wojahn added.
Milley, who drives on Knox Road regularly, said he was not pleased by the lack of the turn signal.
"The no left turn signal by Nandos is really annoying because last semester it was there, and I feel like it made traffic by the College Park Shopping Center more smooth," he said.
During SHA's work on the traffic lights, they discovered that one light at the intersection of Campus Drive and Route 1 was not functioning properly because a squirrel chewed on a wire in the electrical box.
"Earlier this year and at the end of last year, there was some odd congestion happening at the left turn lane when you turn into campus. … That was related," Glaros said. "So yes, that intersection was not functioning as intended."
Despite the unforeseen circumstance and the several follow-up fixes SHA conducted on the lights in Route 1 intersections, the work is now complete, and Glaros said this project contributes to the development of downtown College Park.
"What we are always trying to do on Baltimore Ave. is frankly reclaim it as the heart of the boulevard that is going through the university and College Park," she said. "How we synchronized those lights together, how we make sure people can walk more safely through the downtown, it's all critically important."