The College Park City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to transfer jurisdiction over a section of Rhode Island Avenue from Prince George’s County to the city.
The jurisdiction change over the section of Rhode Island Avenue between Paducah Road and Greenbelt Road means that College Park officials will be responsible for setting the speed limit, controlling traffic, conducting ongoing maintenance, snow removal, replacing signage and resurfacing the roadway when necessary.
The county has agreed to repave and repaint the road by Nov. 30 as part of the agreement. The official date of the transfer has not been determined.
Primary reasons for the transfer are to resolve traffic issues and to allow the city to move forward with development projects without getting approval from Prince George’s County, council members said.
“I think it’s a good move on the city’s side for the long term,” said District 1 council member Fazlul Kabir.
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The city has already spearheaded the Hollywood Streetscape Project on Rhode Island Avenue. This project is designed to improve pedestrian and bike access and will add a wellness circuit, parklets and landscaping. The initiative also aims to reduce traffic in major intersections, including realignment at Rhode Island Avenue and Niagara Road to minimize unsafe turns.
The city is also developing a bike lane redesign project on Rhode Island, which city officials have been working on since 2018. The five-foot-wide lanes are designed to bolster bicycle access on the major street.
During the council’s discussion, District 1 council member Kate Kennedy asked the city’s director of planning and community development, Terry Schum, if the Hollywood Streetscape Project and a bike lane development project could continue without the transfer from the county.
“I don’t believe they could move forward, exactly as they are currently designed, I think there may have to be changes to both projects,” Schum responded.
District 3 council member John Rigg also supported the transfer agreement.
“It is a major arterial for our city. It’s used by all residents of our city,” Rigg said.
Despite the unanimous vote, one College Park resident had reservations about the cost of the transfer agreement.
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“This comes forward without any other ideas proposed for how we could achieve the changes we wish without taking on this substantial financial burden,” said Mary King, during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The cost of annual maintenance of Rhode Island Avenue will be approximately $30,000, according to city officials. The city will receive funds from Maryland’s State Highway User for the roadway, which may vary annually.
Schum said in the meeting that the development projects on Rhode Island Avenue will increase business in the Hollywood commercial district of College Park.
“There will be an increase in revenue and I do think it will be a really strong addition to the neighborhood,” Schum said. “Our neighbors have been asking for this.”
During the meeting, the council also approved $15,000 of funds for Greek life tailgate events before home football games at this university.
Council members also voted in favor of providing five local food banks and similar programs up to $50,000 each, with a maximum of $250,000 total, which will come from the city’s federal pandemic relief funding.