How TLC helped jumpstart a trail project in Prince George’s County


Prince George’s County wanted to build a new walking and biking trail in the busy Central Avenue corridor. The TPB’s Transportation/Land-Use Connections (TLC) Program helped jumpstart the project.

For the last ten years, through its Transportation/Land-Use Connections (TLC) Program, the TPB has been helping local jurisdictions in the region plan vibrant communities and support biking, walking, and transit use. The program provides free consultant assistance to help jurisdictions carry out planning studies and preliminary engineering for projects to improve transit station accessibility, promote mixed-use development near transit, support bicycling and walking, and more.

From now until April 3, the TPB is accepting applications for the next round of TLC technical assistance. A 2015 TLC project in Prince George’s County shows how TLC can jumpstart a local project and help move it toward reality.

MORE: Learn more about TLC and apply by April 3

How it got started: Prince George’s County wanted to revitalize its Central Avenue corridor

Planners in Prince George’s County had been studying ways to revitalize Central Avenue, a busy east-west thoroughfare running through the heart of the county. The route, which sees a high volume of traffic, including truck traffic, connects several residential neighborhoods and shopping centers and provides access to four stations on the eastern end of Metro’s Blue Line.

But the corridor lacks the kind of higher-density, mixed-use development that is common near other Metro stations in the region. And it’s not very friendly to those who aren’t traveling by car. Numerous residents and business-owners in the corridor have asked the county for more traffic signals and sidewalks, and easier ways to cross the busy six-lane roadway.

One idea for rejuvenating the corridor was to build a new walking and biking trail connecting neighborhoods, shopping centers, and Metro stations. (TPB)

An idea, then the jumpstart

County planners had lots of ideas for rejuvenating the corridor and making it more accommodating. One of those ideas was to build a new walking and biking trail—to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, support the local area’s growing bike culture, fuel economic development, and boost public health.

So, county planners turned to the TPB’s Transportation/Land-Use Connections Program for help.

“We knew we needed to study what it would take to build the trail, but we didn’t have the funding to pay for that study ourselves,” explained Jordan Extanus, one of the planners working on the project. “That’s where TLC came in.”

In May 2014, the county applied for technical assistance under TLC to study potential routing for the new trail and to identify both short-term and long-term actions the county could take to make the trail a reality. The TPB contracted with an outside planning firm on behalf of the county and less than a year later delivered a detailed report outlining the county’s options for action.

“TLC really gave us the jumpstart we needed,” said Fred Shaffer, another county planner involved with the project. “It helped us work out questions of feasibility, which helps when we talk to stakeholders about making the project happen.”

Shaffer also explained that the consultant assistance helped the county drill down and provide concrete ideas for moving the project forward.

“That was a huge help,” Shaffer explained. “Many local governments don’t have the funds to hire consultants to help with these kinds of studies,” he said.

The county is now in the process of moving the eight-mile Central Avenue Connector Trail forward. One of those steps was applying for and receiving additional technical assistance under TLC—this time to complete preliminary engineering and design for the trail’s first phase, a short segment near the Addison Road Metro station.

Planning sustainable, walkable communities and advancing other regional priorities

When it’s complete, the Central Avenue Connector Trail project will serve the main overarching goal of the TLC Program: to help local jurisdictions in the region plan vibrant, walkable communities and to support walking, biking, and transit use more broadly.

The project will create new connections and travel options for people living and working in the corridor. Those new connections will help people get around within the community and make the corridor more attractive to new residential and commercial development. And the project will serve a diverse population, helping to boost access to jobs, healthcare, and educational opportunities for underserved communities.

The Central Avenue Trail will be eight miles long and connect four Metrorail stations
The Central Avenue Trail will be eight miles long and connect four Metrorail stations. (TPB)

In addition to serving the goals of the TLC Program, the project will also advance several regional priorities outlined in the TPB’s Regional Transportation Priorities Plan. These include connecting regional Activity Centers, improving biking and walking within centers, improving access to transit stations and stops, and ensuring greater fairness and equity.

The project will also foster cross-jurisdictional collaboration, requiring the county to work with several state agencies, Metro, and the District of Columbia to make the trail a reality.

Testing new ideas and sharing lessons learned

One of the other goals of the TLC program is to give local jurisdictions resources to test new ideas and to share the lessons they learn with other jurisdictions. The challenges that Prince George’s County aims to address with the Central Avenue Connector Trail are ones faced by many of the region’s local jurisdictions—making the lessons learned ripe for sharing.

“We are a suburban jurisdiction trying to create safer streets for residents,” said Shaffer. “That’s something that a lot of jurisdictions, not just Prince George’s County, are grappling with.”

As another example, Shaffer pointed to a 2008 TLC study that looked at retrofitting suburban roads around the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station. He said that county officials quickly realized that the interventions identified for that location could be used anywhere in the county.

“The county ended up adopting those principles in a countywide master transportation plan and Complete Streets policy,” Shaffer said.

To help jurisdictions share their lessons learned, the TLC Program also includes a component known as the TLC Peer Exchange Network, or PeerX. Most recently, TLC PeerX hosted a workshop focused on TLC projects that had aimed to fill gaps in the region’s bicycle network.

RELATED: TLC PeerX recap: Showcasing projects that aim to fill gaps in the region’s bike network

WATCH: Short overview of the Central Avenue Connector Trail project

Jurisdictions can now apply for the next round of TLC Technical Assistance

The TPB is accepting applications for its next round of technical assistance under TLC through April 3. Any TPB member jurisdiction is eligible to apply. Non-member jurisdictions, nonprofit organizations, and local community groups can receive technical assistance, too, but they must partner with a TPB member jurisdiction to submit an application.

The TPB encourages applications for projects that address one or more of the goals of the TLC Program or other regional priorities. Applicants can submit an optional abstract by February 24 to get feedback from TPB staff on ways to strengthen their application.

And, again this year, the TPB is partnering with the Washington District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to offer subsidized Technical Assistance Panels. TAPs bring together multidisciplinary teams of experts to help local jurisdictions tackle a specific real-estate or land-use challenge in their area.

Applications for TLC Technical Assistance and ULI Technical Assistance Panels are due by 4:00 P.M. on Monday, April 3, 2017.


Cover photo from Google Streetview

New federal performance rules for MPOs, explained
Changes are coming to the way the TPB analyzes transportation equity