Takoma Park receives $30,000 grant to help redesign New Hampshire Avenue by kristi tousignant Staff Writer
A wish to improve Takoma Park’s busy New Hampshire Avenue has been granted. The city won a $30,000 grant last month to hire a consultant to redesign the streetscape of New Hampshire Avenue. The consultant, who has not been selected, will complete a year-long study and make recommendations on how to improve transportation for cars, buses, pedestrians and bicyclists on the bustling street. The avenue is lined with high-rise apartment buildings and older shopping centers with a constant stream of pedestrians milling around each side of the road.
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board awarded the grant. There were 15 applications for grants this year, but only eight were chosen, said Carman Lam, associate planner for the city's Housing and Community Development Department. New Hampshire Avenue runs through Takoma Park near the Prince George’s County border. The road has heavy traffic and lacks sidewalks and crosswalks for pedestrians.
“I still think there’s nothing we can do about the volume of traffic,” Takoma Park City Councilman Fred Schultz (Ward 6) said. “That’s through-traffic. That’s a commuter route. I do think, from a pedestrian standpoint, walking across the avenue is not a very pleasant experience. It’s downright scary at times.”
The city won the grant because the corridor has high commuter and pedestrian density, said Sarah Crawford, a transportation planner with the Department of Transportation Planning in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. “The project really is time-sensitive,” Crawford said. “There is a lot of transportation and redevelopment going on in the Takoma/Langley Crossroads area. With the redevelopment and with the nature of that part of the region, it’s just dense.There’s a lot going on. This project could really add some value to the area.” Program officials will recommend several consultants to Takoma Park in August, and the city will choose one. Lam said she hopes the consultant can start the project in September.
The consultant will concentrate on improving the road for cars, adding bus shelters, making the road pedestrian and biker friendly and improving stormwater management, Lam said. The city studied the New Hampshire corridor a few years ago and came up with goals to turn the commuter-heavy avenue into a boulevard with separate bus and bike lanes, Lam said. Lam said the consultant will turn the ideas into specific designs. “This grant will allow us to go in and say, ‘OK, we want bike lanes, but how wide will the bike lanes be?’” Lam said. “The grant really will put the details into the conceptual design.”
When the consultant creates a plan with more specific details, it will make it easier for the city to move toward starting the project, which is in the far future, Lam said. “When you’ve put in more studies or more effort into it or more detail, it makes it much more attractive for grant application and is closer to moving it to construction,” she said.Lam said she and other staff plan to host a few public meetings on the project this fall.
“This is how you start,” Schultz said. “You start with images that ordinary people who live in the area can relate to and can get excited about. It also tries to sort of say, ‘We are not just going to destroy everything, because there’s a lot of good things along New Hampshire Avenue. We want to make it better.”