College Park plans to partner with the State Highway Administration to install more than 100 pedestrian lights in the city by summer 2024.
To make Route 1 safer and more attractive, the groups are set to place 134 pedestrian lights between College Avenue and University Boulevard over the next five years. The move is part of a larger SHA improvement project on that stretch of Route 1, which also includes adding bike lanes, raising the median and widening certain sidewalks to make them ADA-compliant.
The College Park City Council unanimously passed a motion at a work session Tuesday allowing the city’s manager, Scott Somers, to sign a document affirming the city’s commitment to the plan.
“I think this particular action is just what we should be doing, and I’m really proud that our staff has been paying attention to this relationship with this particular project and is capitalizing on the ability for some cost-sharing here,” said District 2 councilman P.J. Brennan. “I think it’s a great step forward in transforming our city.”
Construction on the lamps will start after the relocation of utilities for the Route 1 project, which is expected to begin as early as May. The first phase of the project — from College Avenue to Lakeland Road — is expected to be completed by spring 2021, Somers said.
The new LED lamps will have red poles, and could display banners or have flower pots, according to city documents.
The Route 1 improvement project has been in the works for more than a decade, but the light installations were a recent addition considered at the city’s request, said Lindsay Bobian, a project manager in the SHA’s highway design division.
“It’s all one big project,” Bobian said. “The pedestrian lights are just one other element.”
The light installation is part of a cost-sharing program where the SHA pays for the underground infrastructure and splits the costs of the basic light pole bases and fixtures.
Some of the lamps will replace current light fixtures, but most will be new. The city would be responsible for funding any additional features, such as banners, and as well as electricity and maintenance of the lamps.
The annual operating cost for 134 lights is estimated between $5,000 and $6,000.
The SHA will begin accepting bids Thursday and won’t know the project’s actual installation cost until then. But the administration initially estimated that the city would pay about $535,000, according to city documents. The SHA estimates it will pay almost $800,000.
Somers said it makes both fiscal and logistical sense for the city to work with the SHA on the project.
“It is a high cost, but I really think the council and a lot of people see the value. … Since [the SHA] is going to be paying a large chunk of the total cost, it would cost us a lot more if we did this separately,” Somers said. “Plus, they’re digging up the road, they’re putting in the infrastructure.”
In addition to the lights the city plans to add downtown, it may agree to partner with the SHA and expand lighting up to the Capital Beltway during the second phase of the improvement project, according to city documents.
At the last work session, council members noted that the price tag was high, but ultimately expressed support for moving forward with the measure. They’re also considering funding the project with bond sales, as they intend to do with the new city hall.
Alex Tobin, the student liaison to the city council, said he hopes increased lighting will keep students and other pedestrians on Route 1 safer.
“It allows the student to be aware of their surroundings, and it reduces crime,” Tobin said.
Somers also pointed out the beautification aspect of the project.
“It really will help dress up and clean up the street,” Somers said. “I mean, it’s the backbone, it’s the main street of our community. It should look nice.”