Letter: A better design for the Medical Center Drive/I-495 interchange

October 5, 2023

Hon. Angela Alsobrooks
Executive Prince George’s County
1301 McCormick Drive, Wayne K. Curry Administration Building
Largo, MD 20774

RE: A better design for the I-495/Medical Center Drive interchange project

Dear County Executive Alsobrooks:

We support the exciting vision you have laid out for a vibrant, walkable Downtown Largo and Blue Line corridor. In order to achieve this vision, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) should wholly rethink their current proposals for a greatly expanded I-495/Medical Center Drive interchange.

SHA’s proposal for a massive, complex, high-speed $90+ million interchange is completely at odds with a vibrant, walkable Downtown Largo. 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. 

The proposed I-495/Medical Center interchange would increase the current number of travel lanes from five to either eight or eleven lanes, plus a protected shared use path on one side. Despite a new barrier protection along the route, people walking or biking would have increased risk by having to cross between 5 to 10 travel lanes of high speed traffic entering and exiting the Capital Beltway. Consuming acres of land, all SHA’s larger interchange alternatives would also create a hotter, miserable environment, and effectively cut off the only walk and bicycle access between the Largo and Morgan Boulevard Metro stations. No one would walk if they had another choice, which is antithetical to a vision of a connected Blue Line corridor.

We believe the proposed interchange alternatives, all of which degrade the pedestrian environment, stem from old approaches at SHA, including justifying their capacity on 20-year traffic projections generated by flawed traffic models. These models overproject future traffic and fail to adequately model the benefits of walkable, transit-oriented communities. 

Given the importance of supporting, rather than undermining the Blue Line corridor vision, and the new opportunities with the Moore administration, we urge you to ask MDOT to work with the County to: 

  1. Develop multimodal urban boulevard design alternatives for the Medical Center Drive/I-495 interchange. These alternatives should provide wider, buffered sidewalks, protected bike lanes or shared use paths, and streetscaping. The interchange design should use the current number of travel lanes rather than expand them;
  2. Develop and construct safe, comfortable pedestrian and bicycle access for Downtown Largo’s other two interchanges at MD 214 (Central Ave.) and MD 202 (Landover Road);
  3. Reallocate funding to expedite the construction of the Central Avenue Connector Trail and bridge providing the direct walk/bike connection from Downtown Largo to Morgan Boulevard (labeled “Phase III” shown in yellow);
  4. Develop and deploy a Transportation Systems Management (TSM) approach that distributes vehicle trips to all three of the interchanges that serve Downtown Largo, the stadium, and the Blue Line corridor. The TSM approach would include tools like I-495 electronic information signs, real time app mapping directions, and parking management.

We believe in the grand vision for Downtown Largo and the Blue Line corridor, thus we ask that you champion investments in multimodal connections and a true urban boulevard linking Downtown Largo and future mixed-use redevelopment around Fedex field, rather than a massive third interchange that degrades and effectively blocks walk and bicycle access.  Please see attached for our full comments.

Thank you for your consideration.

Cheryl Cort
Policy Director

Our CTP testimony