Department of Planning and Zoning held its second and reportedly final workshop on the Calvert County Transportation Plan on Aug. 14 in Prince Frederick.
The multimodal plan, which is slated to address the existing and future growth in the county, sets the vision for transportation development within the town centers and county, and integrates land use, historic preservation, open space and community facilities.
The plan was unveiled for comment to the public on Aug. 19.
“This is the beginning of the next step or the follow-on of what comes after the [Calvert County Comprehensive Plan Update for 2040]. This is one of the key elements that everybody talked about, asked about,” Commissioners’ President Thomas “Tim” Hutchins (R) said.
Requests for the county to conduct a traffic analysis before adopting the comprehensive plan update surfaced early in its process.
However, the planning commission and the board of commissioners agreed to update the county’s existing 20-year-old transportation plan after the comprehensive plan’s adoption.
Last year, the county hired consulting firm Sabra & Associates to consolidate the analysis of existing conditions and prior studies, as well as identify improvements and projects to enhance livability, safety and mobility in Calvert.
Three public workshops were scheduled in the spring to gather citizen input. The first workshop on April 2 had low attendance, while the remaining two workshops were rescheduled to July and August, then finally combined into one session on Thursday at the College of Southern Maryland.
“I’m sorry we could not get back sooner, but we wanted to get it right, we had challenges with data at a regional level,” Sabra consultant Jamie Kendrick said.
Kendrick said there were challenges with data that was geared more toward jurisdictions adjacent to Washington, and that more Calvert-specific information was needed.
The consultant provided an overview of the existing traffic conditions, analysis of future traffic conditions through 2040, and provided a summary of Sabra’s draft of the transportation plan based on industry standards.
“This really informs the town center planning process the most,” Kendrick said.
A conclusion of Sabra’s analysis is that pace and timing of development relative to road improvements needs to be addressed with policy and financial tools during town center planning.
Referring to the plan as agile, Kendrick said there will be no recommendations that dictate where turn lanes must go, or where roads should be widened.
“You will see we really need to accommodate people going in this or that direction,” Kendrick said of the analysis. “How you get there is a function of the town center planning process, but we think we’re going to lead you to the right place, and you all can figure out how to actually operationalize those improvements that need to be.”
Kendrick acknowledged the desire of residents for the development community to do more in terms of improvements to traffic infrastructure, which he said is a good policy goal but said a rational basis for developers’ action is needed. He said having objective standards within the plan establishes the basis for needed improvements by the developer.
The consultant’s draft of the plan lays out five goals to address highway improvements and traffic safety, emphasizes multimodal transportation and smart technology, and provides support for town center development.
The first goal of the transportation plan is to build and maintain transportation assets that are safe, resilient and in a state of good repair. Assets include roads, bridges and culverts. The “state of good repair” will be determined by local standards. The goal will also focus on improving drainage along roadways that have recurring flooding, or are susceptible to storm surge.
A second goal is the elimination of traffic and pedestrian deaths and serious injuries.
It includes maintaining a continuous pipeline of traffic safety improvements and improving data collection and dissemination to target enforcement activities to the highest causes and locations of traffic crashes.
“In the more rural counties, there’s not a whole lot of technical information shared,” Kendrick said. “So, to their credit, the sheriff’s department sees what they see and write the reports that they write, which may or may not match up with what the state highway sees or your experiences. There’s a better need for data collection and flow among the agencies responsible for doing something. It’s just not where it should be.”
The third goal is to improve mobility within town centers, specifically to reduce the need for local traffic to use Route 2/4 in Prince Frederick, Huntingtown and Dunkirk; upgrade the bicycle and pedestrian network; strengthen policy and financial tools to achieve targeted investments; and develop threshold for improvements during town center planning process.
Kendrick said he disagrees with the staff on the issue of bicycle and pedestrian trails and said “it doesn’t really move the needle” and “let’s not run wild with a major bicycle-pedestrian process that gets expectations where they shouldn’t be.”
The fourth objective expands practical choices and achieves reliable travel times for commuters using Route 2/4. To reach that goal, staff will gather and disseminate timely intelligence on traffic conditions along the county’s main thoroughfare and will deploy intelligent transportation technologies to improve travel time reliability.
Staff will also develop and implement an access management plan for Route 2/4 with MDOT SHA and improve congested intersections.
The final goal is to meet unmet transportation needs for Calvert’s carless and limited-mobility households. To do so, the county will establish small-scale programs to provide transportation services to the elderly, disabled and low-income individuals seeking work and improve connections between areas with concentrations of low-income and auto-less households and commercial employment centers. During the workshop several concerns arose including the dangers along Route 231 and its intersections, including Sixes Road, challenges over true travel times on Route 2/4, assumptions that the plan does not address planned development in Prince Frederick, a technology center in Dunkirk will throw projections off, and that the proposed transportation plan will have to be redone immediately as major scale development in the county is most likely on the way.
The Sabra report concluded that mobility-impaired populations will increase significantly over the next 10 years, and that transportation needs exceed current capacity.
The consultants’ draft of the plan was scheduled to be unveiled on Monday, and public comments are due Sept. 6.
The planning commission will review the plan through December, and the board of commissioners are scheduled to review and adopt the plan in early 2020.
For more information, go to www.calvertcountymd.gov/2408/Transportation-Plan.