Footbridge Rejected as Traffic Control Thru St. Mary's City - Southern Maryland Headline News

Footbridge Rejected as Traffic Control Thru St. Mary's City


Md. Route 5 Traffic control through St. Mary's City decision matrix. Click on image for hi-res version. (Source: St. Mary's College of Maryland)
Md. Route 5 Traffic control through St. Mary's City decision matrix. Click on image for hi-res version. (Source: St. Mary's College of Maryland)

ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (March 8, 2009)—Traffic calming was approved as the preferred alternative for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety along Route 5 by the St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM) Board of Trustees at its meeting on Saturday, Feb. 21. The Historic St. Mary's City Commission (HSMC) has also approved the traffic calming recommendation.

The Capital Design Advisory (CDA) of SMCM and HSMC held a series of public meetings and open houses where concerns were voiced over the original proposed footbridge. The traffic calming or "streetscape" alternative is intended to slow vehicle speeds throughout the entire pedestrian corridor by reducing the widths of travel lanes and shoulders. Other features can include sidewalks, landscaping and medians. The college and HSMC have studied the alternative through consultation with the State Highways Administration and an engineering consulting firm.

A CDA-initiated survey of the campus community, HSMC staff, and neighboring residents showed that improving pedestrian safety was the number one "most important criteria" for all groups polled on average. Overall, the majority of student and community concerns over pedestrian safety are addressed by the traffic calming solution. Other alternatives under earlier consideration included improving the existing crosswalk or building a tunnel. In considering community input on the proposed traffic calming, college officials consulted the leadership of the Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, who support the concept. The Ridge Volunteer Fire Department is the college's closest fire and emergency response center, and serves the surrounding community.

According to Federal Highway Administration data, traffic calming is highly effective in reducing accidents as vehicles tend to observe the speed limit. When Route 5 was built decades ago, it was designed by the Maryland State Highway Administration to carry traffic traveling 60 miles per hour. The college at the time was located on only one side of the highway. As the school expanded and buildings occupied both sides of Route 5, the speed limit was decreased to 30 miles per hour. According to a recent Maryland State Highway Administration survey, 15 percent of drivers on Route 5 in St. Mary's City exceed 45 miles per hour.

The Federal Highway Administration reports that the survival rate for a pedestrian struck at 30 miles per hour is 60 percent. That rate drops dramatically to 10 percent for a pedestrian struck at 40 miles per hour. According to recent statistics collected by the SMCM Office of Planning and Facilities, when school is in session, some 550 people cross Route 5 daily between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Most cross at the south crosswalk which is between the Campus Center and the St. Mary's City Post Office.

Specific plans for the Route 5 corridor through the campus include a minor reduction in the width of the highway's travel lanes and an adjustment to shoulder widths to accommodate bike lanes. Other possibilities under consideration include installing additional lighting and planting trees at varying intervals along the highway. The traffic calming alternative is projected to cost between $1.5 and $2 million.

The CDA was created by SMCM and HSMC to provide an interface for community input to their capital development planning. It is charged with seeking public comment in its review of master plan and design proposals for major capital improvement and landscape projects on the SMCM campus and the grounds of HSMC. Concerns for the safety of SMCM students, faculty, staff, and visitors to HSMC crossing Route 5 to get across campus prompted an initial proposal for a pedestrian bridge over the highway. For more information on the CDA or to read an analysis of the proposed pedestrian safety alternatives, visit www.smcm.edu/cda/.

Source: St. Mary's College of Maryland

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