University of Maryland students will soon be able to walk to Riverdale Park Station from the campus more safely, as the construction of a sidewalk along Route 1 leading to the shopping center will wrap up in the next few months.
The path, which both pedestrians and bikers will be able to use, will connect Albion Road and Riverdale Park Station.
"Whether you're a resident or you're a student trying to walk there from campus or from downtown College Park, you've got to have a safe connection," said Eric Olson, the College Park City-University Partnership's executive director.
Olson said the path's construction — which began in December — was put on hold for several weeks due to winter weather, but environmentally friendly permeable concrete was poured at the site last week.
The bike lane on Route 1 next to Riverdale Park Station will transition into the new path, Olson said, so bicyclists will not be abruptly forced into traffic when the bike lane ends. Lighting fixtures will also be added to the path to make sure it is safely lit, he said.
The project should be done in March or April depending on the weather, Olson said.
The city realized a sidewalk was needed to connect College Park to Riverdale Park Station when the Whole Foods opened in the complex in April, District 3 Councilman Robert Day said. Since then, other businesses such as District Taco and MOD Pizza have also opened at the location.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said the lack of a direct sidewalk to Riverdale Park Station was a safety issue. While a sidewalk extends along the opposite side of Route 1, this requires pedestrians to cross the busy highway to access the complex. People were walking on the side of Route 1 without a sidewalk or crossing without a crosswalk to get to Riverdale Park Station from College Park, Wojahn said.
Day said someone cut a path through the bamboo growing between Albion Road and Riverdale Park Station to get through without a sidewalk.
"We knew we needed to do it." Day said, "It was just how are we going to pay for it?"
Multiple factors made the construction of the sidewalk "unusually expensive," Prince George's County District 3 Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros said.
"We're talking several hundred thousand dollars here to just get a block of sidewalk done," Wojahn said.
Construction of the side path was suggested as part of the Whole Foods project, but not mandated, Glaros said. The stretch of land where the sidewalk is being built also has a steep incline and is in College Park, while the Whole Foods is in Riverdale, she said. The nature of the slope and the involvement of several parties in the construction racked up the cost, Glaros said.
The Green Line tunnel between the College Park Metro Station and the Prince George's Plaza Metro Station also runs directly underneath the site of the sidewalk, so the land is owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Glaros said.
Because of all these factors, the project required collaboration between CPCUP, College Park, Prince George's County, Riverdale Park Station, WMATA and the state of Maryland, Olson said.
The partnership was awarded a $350,000 state bond bill toward the construction of this side path, Olson said. In an email, Olson wrote that the partnership does not have the figure for the total cost of the project because so many parties are involved.
Glaros said she was glad that all parties could successfully collaborate and help get the sidewalk built so residents of the county can safely walk to Riverdale Park Station.
"It really helps complete the [Whole Foods] project," Glaros said.