At its September 20 meeting, the TPB approved six new projects in Maryland to receive $1.7 million in funding under the federal Transportation Alternatives program. Also known as Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside, this program provides federal capital funding to projects other than traditional highway construction, including bicycle, pedestrian, recreational trail, and Safe Routes to School projects.
Safer sidewalks for kids to walk to school
Most of the projects approved by the TPB for funding are Safe Routes to School initiatives focused on safety interventions for students walking and bicycling to school. Some of the projects support in-school Safe Routes to School coordinators responsible for educating children about safety and working with the community and parents to encourage kids to walk and bike. Others are infrastructure enhancements, like crosswalks, sidewalks, or better road design, to improve physical safety. Federal law specifically names Safe Routes to School programs as eligible for funding through Transportation Alternatives.
The following four projects, were all approved by the TPB for 2018 funding:
In College Park, Hollywood Road is a primary access route to Hollywood Elementary School through a residential neighborhood. Currently, a few kids walk to school along the road but the lack of sidewalks forces them to walk in the street. In a survey, parents were asked if they would let their children walk to school if there were sidewalks along the route, and many parents said they would. In addition to being a connection to the school, this stretch of Hollywood Road is a missing pedestrian link for people walking to the Greenbelt Metro Station. The project will support the design of a sidewalk along Hollywood Road from Route 1 to Rhode Island Avenue.
In Brunswick, the city plans to replace old and crumbling sidewalks as well as add new sidewalks where none existed so that students attending elementary and middle schools have safe sidewalks to use to walk to their schools. The city hopes that by improving the walking experience and providing better sidewalks, it can promote walking and biking to school as an alternative to driving. It also hopes that more kids walking will decrease congestion on city streets caused by parents driving their children to school.
In Takoma Park, the city requested funding to further enhance its already-robust Safe Routes to School program. Specifically, it requested funding to fill gaps in the sidewalk and crosswalks along streets that serve Takoma Park Elementary, Takoma Park Middle, and Piney Branch Elementary schools. It identified locations where law enforcement had written a high number of tickets for speeding and crosswalk violations. The new sidewalks will prevent pedestrians from walking in the street and will help students walking to school as well as anyone else using those routes.
Finally, Montgomery County identified seven schools where nearby sidewalk conditions make it unsafe for kids walking and biking to school. The county plans to begin collecting data to identify the problem areas and monitor its progress in addressing them. Once those locations and problems are identified, the county plans to increase enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. It will also begin an extensive program to educate parents and children about safe driving, walking, and biking habits.
Expanded Bikeshare and the Central Avenue Connector Trail
In addition to the four Safe Routes to School projects, two bike projects in Prince George’s County will also receive Transportation Alternatives funding. These projects will provide important bicycling and walking connections to Metro stations and help people get around by bike.
The first project will expand Capital Bikeshare to Hyattsville, Mount Rainer, New Carrollton, North Brentwood, and Riverdale Park. The funding will support the purchase and installation of 25 bike docking stations and kiosks with about 425 docks and 250 bikes.
The second project will support the design of the first phase of the county’s planned Central Avenue Connector Trail. The trail will make it safer and more comfortable for people who wish to bike and walk along the busy Central Avenue corridor to do so and it will provide new bicycle and pedestrian connections between four stations on Metro’s Blue Line and nearby communities.
Selected projects help meet regional needs
To aid in the selection of projects, the TPB convened a panel of regional experts to review and score the projects based on how well they meet key regional needs. Those needs include expanding travel options, improving non-motorized travel in Activity Centers, improving access to transit, and serving disadvantaged groups.
The projects funded under Transportation Alternatives may seem small—a trail connection here, new sidewalks there—but small interventions like these can go a long way in helping people get around by foot or by bike, making a big difference in everyone’s quality of life.
The TPB solicits and selects Transportation Alternatives projects in Virginia and the District of Columbia at other times of the year. The selection of projects in the District is expected in October 2017.
Cover photo by Goldberg on Flickr.