Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Baltimore-Washington Parkway Widening Feasibility Study

I haven't seen any recent articles about this process in the local media (Gazette newspapers, Washington Post, etc.) but happened on an online ad on the process.

Apparently there were stories in the PG County Sentinel, "Baltimore-Washington Parkway widening study underway," and the Greenbelt Patch, "If You Widen It, More Will Come: Opposition to widening Parkway remains palpable among — at least some — Greenbelters," in July, on the first meeting, at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel, County.

According to the Patch article, about 40 people attended the first meeting. The Examiner also wrote about the study in January 2011, "Plan to widen BW Parkway concerns local officials."

- History of the Parkway, from DC Roads
- Parkways (Wikipedia)
- Evolution of Parkways, Historic Roads in the National Park System, NPS

Description of the purpose of the BW Parkway from the NPS website:

A Gateway to our Nation's Capital
Enjoy the scenic entryway into our Nation's Capital. Opened in 1954, the parkway is a 29-mile scenic highway that connects Baltimore, Maryland with Washington, D.C.

The parkway is a part of four parkways that welcome visitors and integrate a design to convey to citizens the importance of the capital city. The NPS manages the parkway from the D.C. boundary to Fort Meade, Maryland.

The study was supposed to be finished last month, but there is a public meeting, the third, scheduled for this week:

February 16, 2012
6:30pm to 8:30 pm
Greenbelt Community Center
15 Crescent Road
Greenbelt, MD 20770

The study examines "the feasibility of adding a third northbound and a third southbound land to the BWI Parkway between the interchange wtih I-695 in Anne Arundel County Maryland, and New York Avenue in the Distict of Columbia."

According to the website:

The study is the result of legislative language included in Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations legislation sponsored by Congressman C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Maryland District 2, directing the FHWA to work with the National Park Service (NPS) and the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) to determine the feasibility of such a widening. The study will include an assessment of the impact of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process on traffic throughout the Maryland Route 295 corridor between Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC.

Interestingly, the Congressman who initiated the study is from Baltimore County, while much of the impact from a widening project would be in the DC region. While the B-W Parkway doesn't enter DC per se, it is a key north-south "freeway" -- a "parkway" actually, so that it is supposed to be park-like rather than concrete-like.

It connects to DC via Route 50 (New York Avenue).

In any case, the study should consider adding a continuous bikeway as part of any widening project, even though my predilection might be for no widening. Note that the State of Connecticut is studying adding a continuous trail to the Merritt Parkway ("Walking the Merritt Parkway: ConnDOT considers a multi-use trail," Trumbull Patch).

-- Merritt Parkway Trail Study website, Connecticut DOT

It is a little known fact that bikeways can be included in FHWA-funded "freeway"/Interstate projects, it depends on the policies of the local state. Maryland happens to not integrate bikeways into Interstate projects generally, although there are instances of bridge crossings for trails and walkways, mostly in the DC area, with the Wilson Bridge, and crossing the Beltway next to Georgia Avenue in association with the Forest Glen subway station. The City of Rockville has also created walk-bike bridges over I-270.

And there is an award-winning project that was integrated into I-70 in Colorado that is a national model that should have been transmitted to all states as a best practice example of what could be achieved.

-- "Glenwood Canyon, 12 Years Later," Public Roads Magazine, FHWA

1. Note that it is projects like these--biking and pedestrian integration projects--that are to be eliminated from funding in the proposed Federal Transportation Bill (see "" by Neal Peirce)

2. Although the basic point really is that a complete transportation demand management program should have been created with regard to the transportation impact of BRAC-related base relocations to Fort Meade and the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, with a focus on minimizing the generation of new trips.

Only in that context should a widening of BW Parkway be considered.

3. Also, while the Baltimore-Washington Parkway is not an Olmsted creation, obviously the idea of parkways came out of his work. Preservation and planning efforts in Louisville and Buffalo, which culminated in parkways management plans for those communities are obvious models for how to treat the Washington area parkway "system", which includes the GW Parkway in Virginia, and the Suitland and the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkways in Maryland, in addition to the BW Parkway.

-- Understanding and Managing Historic Park Roads, Historic Roads in the National Park System, NPS

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