Spotlight on Sustainability: Maryland capitalizes on grant, plans growth around Metro stations

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Transit oriented development will bring new jobs, housing and businesses to Prince George’s County. Photo via MNCPPC

The southern expansion of the Washington, D.C. Metro green line opened in 2001 – costing over $900 million. Prince Georges County, Maryland, seeking to capitalize on the existing transit system, developed a corridor action plan that incorporates transit oriented development (TOD) around four southern green line stations; Southern Ave, Suitland, Naylor Rd. and Branch Ave.

With an annual ridership of over 200 million trips the Metro system is an invaluable asset to spur future growth in the DC metropolitan region. Job and housing growth was higher in the area along the southern green line than it was along any other transit line in the DC metro system between 2000-2010.

The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) capitalized on the growth potential of the southern green line with an $800,000 Community Challenge grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop the corridor action plan.

Development in Prince Georges County is typical of post-World War II patterns – sprawled out and designed for driving. Disconnected communities and sidewalk-less roadways make it unsafe for many residents to access amenities in the area without a car. The corridor action plan better connects residents to businesses and transit hubs by focusing on transit oriented development and improving pedestrian and bicycle access through Complete Streets.

Transit oriented development appeals to a wide range of people – from millennials just graduating college to senior citizens. TOD makes significant investments in transit services and identifies opportunities to attract new residents, businesses, consumers, and employers around transit centers.

The plan will focus on Complete Streets to widen sidewalks, reduce road lane size, add bicycle lanes, crosswalks and pedestrian lighting, which will encourage people to use active transportation by making it safer. “These retrofits are expensive but the desire to do so is certainly there from both the community and elected officials in Prince Georges County and the State of Maryland,” says Project Manager, Barry Gore.

Largely disconnected from the surrounding community by an iron fence, a federal campus at the Suitland Metro is a prime target for TOD.  Planners want to present a more attractive and useful community facing the campus to create a more engaging atmosphere for the nearly 10,000 federal employees. Gore says, “We want the employees to come out from the campus and go to businesses across the street rather than have them get into their car and drive to a shopping center somewhere down the road.”

The community challenge grant was funded through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to help communities improve access to affordable housing, increase transportation options, and lower transportation costs while promoting sustainable practices.

When asked about the importance of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities Gore said, “People want walkable communities and it’s incredibly clear. They want coordination – not chaos. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities is an example of coordination at the highest level.” He also noted that funding for these types of programs has been critical and there is an increasing level of interest from communities across the country in applying for these types of grants – making them more competitive to receive than ever before.

If you support the partnership and programs like it then ask your congressman to fund these programs today!

Complete Streets