October 10, 2023
Hon. Thomas Dernoga
Chair, Prince George’s County Council
1301 McCormick Drive, Wayne K. Curry Administration Building
Largo, MD 20774
Mr. Paul Wiedefeld
7201 Corporate Center Drive
Hanover, MD 21076
Re: Comments on MDOT Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) Tour FY24-29, Prince George’s County
Dear Chair Dernoga and Secretary Wiedefeld:
Please accept this testimony on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington, DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all. We work extensively in suburban Maryland, focused on Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
As a member of the statewide Transform Maryland Transportation Coalition (TMTC), we ask MDOT to flex 50% of the federal funds, as allowed by federal law, from the Surface Transportation Block Grant and National Highway Performance Program formulas towards needed investments in eligible transit, safer streets, bicycle, and pedestrian projects, and transit vehicle electrification. Using this flexibility, the Moore-Miller administration can better utilize federal funding to address inequity, increase access to opportunity, and reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of building bigger and wider highways, we should make the most effective use of those we’ve already built.
Vision Zero and re-engineering roadways for safe multimodal travel
We want to echo the statements of Prince George’s County Priority letter highlighting the need to build on the priorities of a Vision Zero policy, which includes re-engineering roadways with critical tools such as protected bike lanes and road diets – that is reducing the number of travel lanes of overbuilt roads to ensure that all users can safely use them. The state should also reverse its policy of not maintaining state sidewalks, and do so as a part of its overall maintenance of state roadways. We concur that given that 19 out of 20 of the roads in the County’s high injury network are state roads, we urge expedited planning and construction to slow down hazardous roads and build out safe multimodal facilities. The state should also recognize the Urban Street Design Standards, and their update, as a baseline for designing safer, slower urban streets.
Investing in essential transit
We ask the state invest in essential transit for the county including:
- WMATA’s fiscal cliff: We urge the administration to be leaders in addressing WMATA near-term potentially catastrophic budget shortfalls, and its midterm capital budget shortfall.
- Transit Transformation initiative support: We ask the administration to increase allocations to WMATA’s Better Bus Network redesign and Locally Operating Transit Systems (LOTS) funding to improve Prince George’s bus service with increased service.
- Bus lanes and other priority measures: WMATA has worked with the county, SHA, and community stakeholder to create a Silver Hill Road tactical bus lane project for this high ridership route of more than 12,000 rides a day. We ask MDOT to make implementation a priority. This should be the first of many bus priority project to provide more cost-effective, reliable bus service.
- MARC: expand and enhance service and capitalize on the New Carrollton station RAISE Grant.
Context Driven for transit centers
We agree with the County that SHA’s “Context Driven” approach is falling far short with no state-funded Metro and Purple Line stations recognized under current criteria. We ask MDOT to apply its context driven approach to designated transit centers where streets are retrofitted to be designed for 25 MPH, and are truly multimodal, with protected bike lanes, and intersections and crossings are short and protected.
Rethink major highway expansion projects
- Medical Center Drive/I-495 interchange: SHA’s proposal for a massive, complex, multilane, high-speed $90+ million interchange is completely at odds with a vibrant, walkable Downtown Largo and connectivity to the stadium area. The proposal would severely degrade walk and bike access on the only I-495 crossing to Downtown Largo that even has a sidewalk or path. We ask MDOT to instead develop multimodal urban boulevard design alternatives for the Medical Center Drive/I-495 interchange with buffered walk/bike facilities; low speed, narrower, safer crossings; enhanced walk/bike access at MD 214 and MD 202; expedited Central Avenue Connector Trail and bridge providing the direct walk/bike connection from Downtown Largo to Morgan Boulevard; and Transportation Systems Management (TSM) approach to distribute vehicle trips to all three of the interchanges that serve Downtown Largo, the stadium, and the Blue Line corridor.
These planning decisions for increased vehicle capacity are driven by flawed traffic models. These models overproject future traffic and fail to adequately model the benefits of walkable, transit-oriented communities.
- VDOT I-495 Southside Study is inherently flawed by bias and failure to include a comprehensive Metrorail, land use, demand management alternative. Prince George’s will suffer a major traffic bottleneck and not see the Metrorail it was promised. We ask MDOT to step up to address the problematic approach VDOT is taking, and put renewed focus on the Blue/Orange/Silver Line Metro Capacity Study.
- Rethink the many other road expansion projects including MD 210 interchanges, MD 4 Corridor. Invest in greater local road network connectivity and other measures to increase safety and support multimodal travel.
Given the importance of addressing climate change, equity, a transit funding crisis and economic vitality, we ask that MDOT use an assessment of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in for its activities. The administration can reduce VMT by fostering transit-oriented communities with safer walk and bicycling conditions and roadway designs, more frequent, reliable and accessible transit service, and other measures to reduce single occupancy vehicle use and better use of low and no emissions travel options.
Thank you for your consideration.