September 8, 2023
Council Member Eric Olson
Chair, Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee (TIEE)
Prince George’s County Council
Wayne K. Curry Administration Bldg., 1301 McCormick Drive, 2nd Floor, Largo, MD 20774
Dear Chair Olson:
Please accept this letter on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG). CSG is the leading non-profit organization in the Washington, D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish.
Thank you for introducing the Walkable Urban Streets Act, and our thanks as well to the eight co-sponsors. We are enthusiastic supporters of the Walkable Urban Streets Act, Council Bill 69-2023 and its companion resolutions CR 67-2023 and CR 68-2023.
This legislation updates and codifies DPW&T’s 2017 Urban Street Design Standards. These standards are to be applied to Regional Transit Districts and Local Centers as designated in Plan 2035. They will help build safer streets, especially for people walking and biking, and they will support transit-oriented development, a major priority of Prince George’s County.
The legislation is greatly needed for two reasons. First, the county’s roads are dangerous because they are too wide and too high speed. Fast, wide roads generate more severe crashes and the county leads the DC region in traffic and pedestrian deaths. The second reason to adopt this legislation is because walkable, bike-friendly street designs are necessary for high-quality and competitive transit-oriented development.
Despite prior adoption of the 2017 Urban Street Design Standards, DPIE and DPW&T have not taken advantage of opportunities to create the kinds of safer, vibrant, walkable, transit-oriented streets and places envisioned in Plan Prince George’s 2035. In fact, the streets in and near transit centers have remained overly-wide, fueling high speed traffic, making the roads dangerous for all users – people walking, bicycling, riding transit, and driving. For specific examples, see our companion fact sheet: Examples of urban street projects falling short of the 2017 standards.
One key reason is that the county’s traffic models often overpredict future traffic volumes, and do not adequately account for the increased walking, biking, and transit use in transit-oriented communities. Designing only for projected vehicle travel becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The wider and faster the road, the less inviting it is for people walking, biking or taking transit, and the more driving it attracts.
This approach gives priority to speed over safety. It also undermines the economic development that occurs in a place where cars are slower and people want to be – the walkable, mixed-use, transit-accessible centers of activity that have been so successful in other parts of the region. In fact, some congestion is an indicator of a successful local economy. Plan 2035 recognizes this and the county’s transportation review standards allow for an urban level of traffic volumes on streets around mixed use transit centers and a focus on improving access by means other than driving.
The updated Urban Street Design Standards proposed in this bill require safer streets around transit districts and local centers, and include these components:
- 25 mph design speed maximum
- 2-4 travel lanes total roadway maximum
- 10′ travel lane widths (11′ for bus routes)
- 15′ corner radii (and no slip lanes/high speed turn lanes)
- Buffered walk and bike facilities
- On-street vehicle parking with bulbouts (where appropriate)
The Walkable Urban Streets Act will ensure the county is planning and building the streets needed for improved safety, people-oriented places, and economic success.
Thank you for your consideration.