The mayors of College Park and Riverdale Park, along with city, county and state officials, met at the corner of Albion Road and Route 1 at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a sidewalk connecting the two communities.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn and Riverdale Park Mayor Alan Thompson were joined by State Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George's), Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George's), Prince George's County Council Chair Dannielle Glaros and multiple College Park City Council members in welcoming the new 300-foot multi-use side path — which underwent construction from December until a few weeks ago — that connects downtown College Park and Riverdale Park Station and allows local pedestrians and bicyclists to get to the Whole Foods, which donated pastries to the event.
"The word of the day today is collaboration," said College Park City-University Partnership Executive Director Eric Olson. "Because this took the city, the town, the state, the county, the developer and everybody else to make this happen."
Thompson said people have been complaining about a lack of sidewalks in this area for at least 20 years. The two communities are divided by Route 1, he said, and without sidewalks, the two communities won't interact.
"The town of Riverdale Park and the town of College Park share a boundary," District 3 Councilman John Rigg said, "and yet until this was open, you couldn't get between the two without getting in your car and driving around, which is really silly."
Olson said the lack of pedestrian and bicycle access was a safety issue. Before the sidewalk was completed, Rigg said, some people used hatchets and machetes to clear a path through the bamboo forest to the Riverdale Park shopping center from College Park.
Before the construction, the bike path on Route 1 in front of Riverdale Park Station abruptly ended in front of the development, Wojahn said, forcing cyclists into traffic. The bike lane now connects to the side path, allowing cyclists to get from Riverdale Park to College Park and vice versa, Wojahn said.
"I wanted to make sure that we had the bike lane actually connect into this to make it more than a sidewalk," Wojahn said, "a multi-use pathway to bring pedestrians and cyclists from Riverdale Park to College Park and vice versa."
As a nod to the area's history, the path also runs between two pillars that marked the entrance to the historical MacAlpine House, which was built by Charles Baltimore Calvert in 1863, Olson said.
The side path is built on land owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and extends into both communities, Olson said, which made the permitting for the project difficult. Building the side path itself was also difficult, city engineer Steven Halpern said. More than 1,600 cubic yards of dirt — enough to fill City Hall— had to be removed to make the ground level enough for an ADA-compliant sidewalk, he said.
Halpern said he couldn't get one consecutive week of work on the project due to the cold, rain or snow. The path is made of permeable concrete that is temperature-sensitive, he said. Halpern said construction usually doesn't occur in the winter, but there was an urgent need to give people access to Riverdale Park Station.
Olson said there are still a few finishing touches left for the sidewalk, such as the addition of trees along the path.
"It seems like it's not very long as a piece of sidewalk," Wojahn said, "but it's amazing how complicated it was to build a piece of infrastructure that's just 300 feet."