COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The intersection of Route 1 and Knox Road in College Park sees a lot of foot traffic throughout the day, and even more so on weekend nights when bars are packed with University of Maryland students.
In 2014, there have been several accidents — the most recent last Friday night.
“Four serious pedestrian traffic accidents — two of them fatal, all within 10 months — call for urgent action,” Wallace D. Loh, president of the university, wrote in a statement.
The school and the city have sent letters to the Maryland Highway Administration, which overseas Route 1, calling for more to be done in the name of safety.
“We’ve never had any kind of incidents like this and the pattern that we just recently had,” says Mayor Andrew Fellows.
In a letter to highway administration, Fellows asked the state to designate the portion of Route 1 between Berwun and Guilford roads a pedestrian zone. He also urged the state to put in countdown lights for all sides of the road, automatic flashing “walk” signals with a green light and install better lighting.
Ralph Hubbard is a parent whose son, Cory, was killed in January while crossing the street — not at the crosswalk.
“The changes that are proposed, I am in favor of, I think it is a good thing,” he says. “It’s such a shame that two young people had to die for these changes to occur, but I don’t want it to happen to anybody else.”
In their letter to the highway administration, the university asked for median strip barriers to discourage jaywalking. Hubbard supports that idea, “To deter (jaywalking), you have to put some sort of a block, to change people to go to the intersections where they belong.”
David Buck, highway administration spokesman, says, “Some of the things that are being asked for are not things that can be done immediately, medians, lighting, that is not something that happens overnight.”
He says for now, some short term solutions are being looked it.
One of those solutions was the subject of a recent online petition students began that requests sidewalk barriers be installed along Route 1. More than 2,100 people signed the petition and Fellows says the city is discussing erecting temporary barriers as early as next week.
Carlos Pacanins, 23, was the second person killed at the intersection this year. A close family member, Keith Hearle, says the family appreciates the university taking action.
Hearle would like to see lights, like those used in school zones, installed in the area as well. “You see yellow blinking lights to say, well hey, I’ve got to pay a little more attention here,” he said.
There are also calls to reduce the speed limit in the area from 30 mph to 25 mph.
In a letter to student and faculty, the university president said there will be an increased police presence between campus police and Prince George’s County police on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until 3 a.m.
The school and city already launched education safety campaigns in the area, urging pedestrians to cross when and where they should. The plan is to also launch the Street Smart campaign — a D.C. area campaign to prevent pedestrian accidents.
“This strikes me as something could be a collaborative effort across educational institutions across the area,” says Hearle, the fiance of Pacanins’ mother, especially for people like Pacanins who was a George Washington University student.
The state highway administration’s spokesman says personal responsibility is part of the solution. “One of the consistent factors, and this is just the facts of the crashes, is we continue to have impaired pedestrians along Route 1 and crossing the road,” he said.
“Everyone that uses that road and has some type of vested interest in that road needs to come together as a team and really look at this as a massive team approach,” Buck said.