Pr. George's plan calls for Metro extension, HOV lanes

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 26, 2009

Planners in Prince George's County are hoping that an increased focus on transit will reduce the stop-and-go traffic drivers routinely experience on county roadways.

In the county's 171-page transportation master plan, planners are calling for the extension of Metrorail's Purple and Green lines and consideration of high-occupancy lanes on planned roadways to ease traffic and get commuters out of their cars.

The vision is in line with the county's overall growth policy, which has started to focus less on residential development and more on mixed-use developments, where people can live, work and play in a pedestrian-friendly environment.

"It's all about cutting down on the need to use a car," said Hal Foster, project manager for the transportation master plan, which also looks at the county's highway and hiking and bicycle trail systems.

The County Council and the Planning Board will have a joint public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the county administration building to discuss the transportation plan, which has not been redone in more than 25 years. The council, which is scheduled to vote on the plan by Nov. 20, has recommended about 30 changes to a preliminary plan that the Planning Board adopted this year.

Most of the changes are minor, including updates on completed roadwork and replacing "ICC," which stands for the Intercounty Connector, with its state highway designation of Route 200.

Other changes are more substantive. For example, in their draft, planners defined the location of "transportation priority growth districts." The council objected to the geographical constraints, suggesting that the definition be expanded to apply to more areas.

Foster said that National Harbor, which is accessible by bus but not rail, was not included in the growth districts outlined in the draft but that council members thought it should have been because the county wants light rail to go there. The line would make stops in Landover, Westphalia Town Center and Oxon Hill. The master plan suggests that the county conduct a feasibility study for the service.

The county also wants the Green Line extended from Greenbelt to Fort Meade by way of Beltsville and Laurel. The stops could include Konterra, a massive mixed-use development underway at the eastern end of the ICC.

In addition to the plans for transit and highways, planners suggest that the county spend 1 percent more of its transportation budget on the trail system.

They also suggest a number of studies, including one on building a pedestrian bridge near the New Carrollton Metro station and another on bicycle and pedestrian access at Purple Line stations.

Council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel), chairman of the transportation committee, called the plan a disappointment.

"I had hoped the plan put forth would have more comprehensive solutions," he said. "I think it falls short in that area."

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