Following a spike last year in pedestrian deaths along or near Route 1 in Howard County, the Office of Transportation is taking new action to improve safety in the industrial corridor known for the danger it poses to pedestrians and bikers.
Six people were killed in five separate incidents on or near the road in the county last year, according to data compiled by the Office of Transportation's Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Eatough. Almost all of Route 1 in Howard County — nearly six miles — has no pedestrian sidewalks.
The Office of Transportation is now set to begin an evaluation of the road to identify specific actions the county can take over the next five years to improve safety in the corridor. The evaluation will be largely data-driven, Eatough said, and will help the office identify where the greatest number of crashes are occurring, to pinpoint areas that need the most safety improvement.
Officials will utilize local and state police crash data to locate the highest accident-prone areas of the road, according to Eatough. Input from users is also important to help the county learn about stretches of the road residents may avoid walking along due to safety concerns, something officials can't discern from data.
"Data does help to tell a big portion of the story, but hearing about people's challenges is a big part of the story as well," Eatough said.
In an effort to gather more public input on what safety improvements should be made in the corridor, the Office of Transportation will host two all-day, drop-in open houses during which residents can gather information on the evaluation project as well as give their perspective on what actions the county should take to make the area safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Eatough said the office chose to offer two all-day open houses rather than a town hall or meeting format in order to offer citizens a better chance to have their voices heard, and to make it as convenient as possible.
The Office of Transportation's evaluation will continue for the rest of this year, with the goal of creating a shortlist of recommendations for improvements to Route 1 in spring 2018. Eatough said the recommendations will be presented to multiple audiences, including county officials, the State Highway Administration and developers building projects in the corridor.
Recommendations could include filling gaps in the sidewalk network, reducing speed limits, improving lighting or increasing police enforcement in the area, according to Eatough.
The evaluation will cost $100,000 and will be funded in large part through a grant from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council's Unified Planning Work Program, with the county paying for 20 percent of the project, Eatough said.
The first open house will be held at the UMUC Dorsey Station Center on Sept. 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and the second open house will be at the Howard County MultiService Center on Oct. 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.