Suburban Maryland Calls Wider Roads “Pedestrian Improvements”

Road widening is being disguised as pedestrian spending in the DC suburbs. Photo: This is Bossi/Flickr

It’s one step forward, two steps back for transit and livability in the Washington region. Today, Greater Greater Washington reports that the highway lobby in Virginia is seeking to wrest control over transportation funding from the northern part of the state in order to shift transit and walkability spending to road projects.

Meanwhile, it’s a similar story in suburban Maryland, where GGW‘s Ben Ross says Montgomery County’s transportation budget has been designed to seem transit- and pedestrian-friendly when it’s anything but:

MCDOT learned long ago that cars-first policies had to be disguised with lip service to transit and pedestrians, and this budget continues that tradition. While new roads are the first category in the current six-year budget, the new budget lists them after transit.

At first glance, the proposed transit and pedestrian budgets seem large, but this is a mirage. The numbers are inflated with items that belong elsewhere. The county calls a $70 million dollar garage for school buses and park maintenance vehicles a mass transit facility. Road widenings around new schools, previously classified as road projects, are listed as pedestrian improvements this year. Buried in the budget for a new Metro entrance at Medical Center is the cost of a turn lane a block away at Jones Bridge Road.

A telling example of MCDOT’s attitude is how it justifies spending money on bike lanes in downtown Bethesda. The county planning board made us do it, agency officials say. The bike lanes must be built before development can proceed beyond a certain point. There’s no thought that they might serve a transportation purpose.

The really sad thing is, Montgomery County includes some of the most transit-oriented suburbs in the nation.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Baltimore Spokes shares some of the worst foot-in-mouth one-liners from the Maryland Department of Transportation. Bike Portland reports that the road running past Nike headquarters in Oregon’s Washington County is getting wider, but it’s also getting protected bike lanes. And Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space says that much of the reporting about gentrification misses the point, because it ignores local real estate market conditions.