Prince George’s County, Maryland Complete Streets Initiative

In 2012, the Prince George’s County Council in Maryland passed a Complete Streets Ordinance that requires officials to incorporate measures to manage runoff and increase access for all roadway users (bicyclists, pedestrians, etc.) on public and some private roadways. The ordinance directs county officials to incorporate environmental site design into road, trail, sidewalk, and transit construction projects to ensure that stormwater runoff is well-managed and that roads are accessible to everyone. Communities that will face increasingly heavy precipitation events due to climate change can use this ordinance as a model of how to incorporate green streets provisions into their codes.

Many communities across the country are enacting “green streets” or “complete streets” ordinances to achieve environmental goals. Green streets are designed to manage stormwater runoff by retaining the water, instead of diverting it into storm sewers as quickly.  Green streets often include green infrastructure elements such as permeable pavements, bioswales (i.e., vegetated shallow sloping water courses on the side of the road), and street trees. Green streets both protect roads by keeping storm systems from being overwhelmed by heavy rain and flooding streets, and protect water quality by filtering pollutants. Complete streets are designed to be safe for all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, etc.) by incorporating bike lanes, usable sidewalks, crosswalks, and other transit-oriented amenities.

Prince George’s County’s ordinance is unusual in that it combines the two concepts and asks county transportation and public works officials to consider both in all transportation projects. The ordinance (CB-83-2012) states that “all planned County financed and approved road, sidewalk, trail and transit related construction and reconstruction projects shall include environmental site design…” The ordinance also directs the Department of Public Works and Transportation to “review and revise, as deemed necessary by the Director, plans, manuals, policies, processes and the capital improvement program to foster the implementation of a complete and green street on public roadways projects, including privately built projects approved by the Department…” The ordinance covers both public roadway projects and those private projects that require county permitting.

Since 2012, the County has completed projects under this ordinance’s policy. Ager Road in Hyattsville, for example, formerly had storm drains that went straight to waterways without any type of controls, and had problems with ponding of surface water on the road. The road was also out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), had narrow and obstructed sidewalks, and was not connected to nearby trails. The street was redesigned to address all of these issues. The stormwater runoff issues, in particular, were fixed by adding vegetated bioswales in the median and grass buffers along the side of the road.

Additionally, municipalities within Prince George’s County have also been looking at developing their own Complete Streets policies. In spring of 2014, representatives from nine municipalities in the County attended a workshop to learn about how to write, adopt, and implement a Complete Streets policy, and expressed a desire to ensure that municipal policies align with the County’s and the State of Maryland’s policies. In July 2014, Capitol Heights became the first of Prince George County’s municipalities to officially adopt a Complete Streets policy.

 

This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on October 28, 2015.

 

Publication Date: November 2012

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