Greater Greater Washington

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Prince George's is trying to be serious about transit-oriented development

Prince George's County officials want everyone to know that the county is serious about transit-oriented development and making the most of its Metro stations. A promise to plan needed streets, sidewalks and parks around a short list of stations could be an important change to county spending that's been focused on big-ticket road projects.


Photo by the author.

The county has been lobbying hard to get the FBI headquarters at the Greenbelt Metro station. Next week, officials break ground on a new Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development headquarters at the New Carrollton station. And the county has committed to locate a $650 million hospital at Largo Town Center station.

All are examples of the county's strategy targeting five Prince George's Metro stations: Largo, New Carrollton, Prince George's Plaza, Branch Avenue, and Suitland. The county will speed up the approval process around these sites and offer financial incentives for transit-oriented development.

The county has also committed to plan infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, and parks around each station. For the last few years, the county's requests to the state government for transportation projects listed infrastructure at Metro stations, but did not make a detailed request. County officials now are committing to assessing specific station area needs, to make sure that infrastructure at Metro stations are in the line for funding from the county, state, or other sources. The current draft of the county's 20-year land use plan also calls to revise the county's capital project lists to align with its transit-oriented development priorities.

But apart from the Purple Line, which isn't entirely in the county, the lion's share of local and state funds continue to flow to expensive road widening, interchanges and other facilities that chase sprawl.

The county has won a state commitment to spend $150 million on an interchange at Suitland Parkway and MD-4, and a new interchange for MD-210 (Indian Head Road) at Kerby Hill Road for $100 million. The Suitland and MD-4 (Pennsylvania Avenue) interchange feeds develop­ment at the 6,000-acre greenfield Westphalia project, which is a bad deal for the county.

The county's top request from the state this year is to fund another interchange for MD-210, which could cost close to $100 million. The complete plan for 7 interchanges along MD 210 prices at more than $600 million. Those numbers dwarf the $26 million the state committed last year for pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

Rushern Baker's administration's pledges to help spur development at priority Metro stations are very welcome. Residents are hoping to see them follow through.

Cheryl Cort is Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. She works with community activists, non-profit groups and government agencies to promote transit-oriented development, housing choices, economic development and pedestrian safety, especially in less affluent communities. 

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$600 million for 210? What a titanic waste.

by Richard on Apr 4, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

Wow. The beneficiaries of many of those superhighway interchanges will be drive-through commuters from other counties.

Why would Prince George's ask for hundreds of millions to help outsiders drive through faster? What's in it for us? Yikes.

by Greenbelt on Apr 4, 2014 4:21 pm • linkreport

Both the 2008 Branch Avenue study and plan, and the recently completed Southern Green Line study and plan, made a number of recommendations for redevelopment that is sorely needed in an area served by Metro and within a mile of the MD/DC line. Maryland transportation officials have a plan to improve the streetscape and pedestrian access this year.

After the latest plan approval, the county council passed a bill to ban many types of development in the area. Without looking at the interior stores at Iverson Mall, it would appear that up to 40% of the existing businesses would become non-conforming.

But the Baker administration apparently has no interest in actually developing the area.

Why do they keep going through these planning exercises if they have no interest in implementing the plans?

by D.C. Russell on Apr 4, 2014 4:21 pm • linkreport

It is all just talk because ACTIONS mean much more. Just look at the $$$ being spent for Westphalia and Konterra. It is pretty clear where the "priorities" are in the county. I just don't understand how they think they will make those green field projects a success without seriously draining resources from the transit oriented projects. MD 4 will become a nightmare as Westphalia develops. Does the county really need another 600 hotel rooms in the middle of nowhere? We already have National Harbor for that...and a soon to be constructed "casino resort" that will probably provide more than enough hotel rooms for Southern PG County.

by ArchStanton on Apr 4, 2014 4:32 pm • linkreport

$600 million for turning Indian Head Hwy into a limited access expressway for commuters? Not without tolls on it!

by Pablito on Apr 4, 2014 4:33 pm • linkreport

Think of what $600 million could do for streetscape improvements along all the inside-the-beltway traffic sewers in the county! That's enough to afford a pretty miraculous transformation of parts of Route 1, 201, 193, 450 etc. that could make those areas much more commercially viable and successful, and bring in more tax revenue.

Disclosure -- I'm related by marriage to a small business located on a PG traffic sewer that would benefit from implementing the streetscape improvements in the Route 1 master plan.

by Greenbelt on Apr 4, 2014 6:13 pm • linkreport

Why everytime these transit folks try to scare folks into supporting their little theory by attacking highway projects in suburban Maryland but will not attack the Several Highway projects being planned in NoVA...

by tom on Apr 4, 2014 7:18 pm • linkreport

Greenbelt, the only way to help us highway 1 in pg county is to add and extra lane on both sides just like from Arlington to Stafford County....

by tom on Apr 4, 2014 7:26 pm • linkreport

The developers and the county seem equally clueless. One of the newer buildings right outside of the Branch Ave station features these inviting brick walls and tall gates..

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.823638,-76.912971,3a,37.5y,7.25h,87.07t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sW_szeKBL8_1D5FCY2KVQSQ!2e0

And whats behind them? Restaurant and retail spaces that they have been completely unable to lease out. Hmm, I wonder why.

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.824304,-76.912149,3a,75y,238.18h,91.28t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sXmD8SPcxqWABkLlmOV_xjg!2e0

Notice too how the sidewalk (which leads only to the Branch Ave Super Speedway) is right up against the street, placing pedestrians within inches of speeding commuters going in and out of the park-and-ride lot. That area did (does?) have potential but has a very long way to go.

by dcmike on Apr 4, 2014 7:30 pm • linkreport

And if you want to walk towards Andrews you'll find that there is no sidewalk at all most of the way. PG officials talk about TOD but discourage pedestrian access to many stations.

by D.C. Russell on Apr 4, 2014 10:07 pm • linkreport

Instead of trying to create new areas and TOD why not just build transit where there are already shops, housing etc.

The best areas in PG County that could be developed are Route 1, 201 and Pennsy Drive. Pennsy Drive is between two stations Landover & New Carrolton; there is no housing and just warehouses or industrial uses.

If PG County got their sh*t together Pennsy Drive you could change Pennsy Drive in 10 years to something similar to Wilson Blvd. Its a blank slate that is near Metro Stations, near a highway, inside of the beltway. It is atleast a good 2 sq mile area with no residences so no one to object any type of development.

You could build a whole new community there, a streetgrid, rebuild Beaverdam Creek (for a water element) and tie everything into the nearby Metro Stations.

In PG County transit should be focused on the following and nothing else.

1 Indian Head Hwy + St Barnabas Road + Oxon Hill Road,
2 Branch Ave (Inside the Beltway)
3 Silver Hill Road/Iverson Street
4 Pennsylvania Ave & Marlboro Pike (Brooks Dr to Beltway)
5 Pennsy Drive
6 Kenilworth Ave & Edmonston Drive
7 Route 1
8 East West Hwy
9 Greenbelt Road

Connect those areas via bus/lightrail/streetcar or whatever to other areas nearby and to Metro Stations. F**k Westphalia & Konterra; these areas already have reason why people come to them add to what is there on a massive scale with transit, businesses and housing.

by kk on Apr 5, 2014 3:38 am • linkreport

kk, to say F**k Westphilia & Konterra" is to say F**k PG County is to also say F**k Suburban Maryland. Why do you have such a personal hate towards PG Conty when there are areas outside of Suburban Maryland are just as ant-Transit with major Highway Corridors that are far more Economic and Business wealthy than PG County.

When you come to grips and admit your real reason of dislike towards PG County then the story is clear as to why PG County is far more backwards than other areas outside of suburban Maryland that does not have as much of a saturated transit system butyet they are doing better than PG County financially.

by kim on Apr 6, 2014 7:36 pm • linkreport

There could be an infill station between college park and greenbelt station where a huge development is currently being built.

by Mattofdc on Apr 6, 2014 7:53 pm • linkreport

Why is it that people who complain about criticism of PG county traffic sewer projects don't notice when this site criticizes the traffic sewer projects in NoVA? I guess some people just can't take criticism, or think they're above reproach?

by Mike on Apr 7, 2014 7:35 am • linkreport

The Konterra non-development has been an impediment to re-developing the Greenbelt metro area for years.

by Greenbelt on Apr 7, 2014 9:32 am • linkreport

@ kim

I have no personal hate for PG County and did I say that I do no so don’t put words in my mouth; I don’t know where you get this idea from! All I said is build stuff where people are already living, working and shopping at. The county should not be focusing on Konterra or Westphilia in the middle of nowhere compared to hundreds of locations that are closer to Metrorail/Metrobus, the Beltway, and current shopping plus much more. Instead of bulldozing a bunch of trees we should build stuff where there is already stuff.

There is no reason for Konterra when you have empty space at Greenbelt Station and around it within 3 miles and if you want to build further north in the county there is always Laurel.

When it comes to Westphalia there is not a good reason why someone should bulldoze empty land with just trees to build a development when there are locations that are better suited. Why not redevelop Forestville, Camp Springs, Temple Hills or Marlow Heights. The only reason it would be good for anyone is if you are the developer or a nearby land owner.

by kk on Apr 7, 2014 10:18 am • linkreport

The Konterra non-development has been an impediment to re-developing the Greenbelt metro area for years.

Decades, really. Konterra's been on the drawing board for more than 30 years now. The earliest article I'm aware of on it was headlined "Mini-City Proposed Near Laurel", written by Eugene Meyer in the Washington Post of October 27, 1983.

by iaom on Apr 7, 2014 10:41 am • linkreport

kk - A lot of your list of PG area needs has a lot of merit. What's with with 600 mil going only to Indian Head Hwy? (My guess the bulk of the demand for that comes from those living way, way out past urban PG to be able to get giant homes.)
Someone mentioned Westphalia - since I don't recall ever needing to pay attention to Westphalia (I'd need to Google where that is, even), I have no opinion about that.
Having a bunch of trees in an area to me simply is nice. I don't see that as "wasted".

by asffa on Apr 7, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

dcmike those buildings do look grim.

by asffa on Apr 7, 2014 12:48 pm • linkreport

I guess kk does not support new development in pg county that can rival development projects in Fairfax County....

by tom on Apr 7, 2014 5:11 pm • linkreport

@Konterra Haters

Konterra is as much for eastern MoCo as it is for PG. PG is smart in developing this area as the MoCo Council allows northern portions of "East County" to waste away. It's not much different from the NH casino taking advantage of it's proximity and accessibility to VA. I applaud PG for taking advantage of their neighbors' lack of movement and outdated plans.

I live near 200 in Silver Spring and it will take me about 10 minutes to get to Konterra vs. 30+ min to get to Bethesda or 20ish to get to downtown Silver Spring (in normal traffic). Both areas I would fight traffic on local streets and take 10+ minutes looking for parking. If Konterra is built up to expectations, expect thousands of east/north MoCo families flock there on the weekends. I can't wait to take my $$ outside MoCo once it's built up.

by Lane on Apr 16, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

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