Developers should provide sidewalks, not just road capacity
Prince George's County, like many other jurisdictions, requires developers to pay for new roads around new buildings, even outside the project's boundaries. But it never requires new sidewalks or bike lanes offsite. A bill in the county council would change that.
"The Park at Addison Metro" is a prime example. It's a new development of townhouses that boast a 4-minute walk to the Addison Road Metro station. But to walk to the Metro station, residents must use a poorly-designated crossing to get to a legal sidewalk on the other side of the busy street.
The county required the developer to pay money to add new road capacity around the area, but asked for nothing to improve access for pedestrians.
On April 24, the Prince George's County Council will consider County Bill 2-2012 (CB-2) which would address this glaring oversight. It would let the county require developers to fill in missing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure around new developments.
Prince George's County has consistently had more pedestrian fatalities than any other jurisdiction in the region or in the state of Maryland. Between 1999 and 2010, Prince George's suffered an average of 25 fatalities per year, far eclipsing the 16 deaths on average in Maryland's second worst county, Baltimore County. Prince George's even has more pedestrian fatalities than the District of Columbia, which has far more pedestrians.
Prince George's planners won't address this problem without a law specifically allowing them to. This proposed bill would give the Planning Board the authority they need.
Councilmembers Mel Franklin (District 9) and Eric Olson (District 3) are leaders on pedestrian safety issues, and proposed CB-2 to help foster more walkable development and improves safety and access.
The bill asks county planners to determine adequate walk and bike facilities for new developments, similar to the current provisions for roads. If the area lacks needed infrastructure, the developer may be required to construct the most critical missing sidewalk or bicycle links.
The bill caps the cost for the developer at a modest 35¢ per square foot of commercial development, and $300 per housing unit. It also only imposes these new rules for developments in the county's designated urban centers and corridors, which are the most conducive to walking and bicycling.
This bill is a reasonable approach to a real problem. It works with developers to produce a better final product, and to reduce the costs of traffic.
Everyone benefits when more people walk and bike instead of drive. The developer can pay for less expensive transportation infrastructure, residents and businesses enjoy better and safer access to nearby destinations, and surrounding communities experience less automobile traffic.
The County Council will conduct a public hearing on the bill on April 24, at 1:30 pm at the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro. If you live or work in Prince George's County, contact the County Council or speak at the hearing, and urge them to support this bill.
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