Greenbelt East Trail January 2024 Update

This is our 19th Greenbelt East Trail Newsletter. If you're new to the project, our website for Friends of the Greenbelt East Trail is for background info.

Here's the latest news:

  1. At a Greenbelt City Council worksession with State Highway Administration District 3 officials on December 18th (video link), SHA announced that the expedited feasibility study for the Greenbelt East Trail's "Sector 2," the section from the Greenbelt city limit to Good Luck road in front of NASA, would be delayed until the end of January or first week of February.
  2. There was no specific timeline given for the feasibility study for the full length of the trail, but SHA mentioned "early Spring" as the new goal.
  3. The reason for the delay was explained to me as a contracting issue, not an engineering or budget problem.
  4. A four year old child was killed in a car crash along the future GET route on December 12th. So now we've recently had a pedestrian killed at the west end of the proposed trail in Greenbelt, and a child killed near the east end in Glenn Dale.
  5. MD District 22 Legislators, led by Delegate Anne Healey, have introduced HB389, a bill to remove the requirement that localities maintain sidewalks or bike paths along state highways.
  6. The real purpose of HB389 is less about maintenance itself, and more about removing a process impediment to studying and designing trails on state-owned rights of way in our county. At Friends of the GET, we learned early on that getting advance sign-off from localities on maintenance was a requirement for even studying bike/walk projects, no matter how necessary the project was for safety and accessibility.
  7. Removing process barriers will be a key goal for Friends of the GET in 2024, I think. The usual study-design-fund-build process for bike and walk infrastructure seems to take at least 5 years. We need to shorten that timeline, both for the GET and other safety projects.
  8. Right now, SHA could decide to "Quick Build" various sections of the GET, such as the section in front of NASA, where there would be no additional asphalt, no impact on vehicle traffic capacity, and 100% use of moveable/changeable materials: flexposts, curbstops, paint, and (maybe) speedhumps where the trail would cross high-speed right turn "slip" lanes. There would be no permanent engineering that couldn't be changed or modified later.
  9. Our next stakeholders call will be in February. I'll send an update after we get the first feasibility study for the NASA sector. Please reply to this email or send a note to [email protected] if you haven't received an invite to our stakeholder calls in the past and would like to join.

Here's the Bottom Line: The Safety Data for Prince George's County are Awful.

It's Time to Cut Through the Usual 5+ Year Process and Start Protecting People, Calming Traffic, and Saving Lives. Enough People Have Died on Greenbelt Road Already.

SHA Should Expedite a "Quick Build" for the Greenbelt East Trail in 2024, Starting with the NASA Sector (which we call "Sector 2").

My Perspective. At the Greenbelt City Council worksession in December, the SHA staff stated up front that safety was the agency's number 1 concern. But when the Greenbelt Mayor and Council asked SHA to consider squaring off the high-speed right turn ramp coming off the B-W Parkway to westbound Greenbelt Road, near where the pedestrian was recently killed (see map closeup above), the SHA engineer explained that a traffic study would need to be done before that could be considered.

This morning, I drove the whole length of the Greenbelt East Trail. There were bike riders "salmoning" eastbound on the north-side shoulder where the GET would run, headed to NASA. There were lots of walkers, particularly near DuVal HS; there were people waiting for buses, sometimes on sidewalks, sometimes off the road or on snowbanks. The safety of all of those people should be more important than traffic speeds, not less. Why are traffic studies more important than safety studies?

If we were really serious about safety and accessibility along Maryland's suburban roads, I have four suggestions:

  1. We need MDOT and SHA leadership to cut through outdated process impediments, and instead push expedited processes to improve safety and accessibility, and calm traffic in the new Maryland suburbs. The SHA director should tell District 3 engineers to either figure out how to quickly build the Greenbelt East Trail and other low cost/high impact safety and accessibility projects in Prince George's county, or else be reassigned to guard rail inspection duty in Garrett County. In Winter.
  2. We need more automated safety enforcement. Delegate Healey is also leading an effort to allow more cameras in Prince George's county. This effort, bill PG 301-24 from the Prince George's delegation, was made more urgent by the recent killing of two children and wounding of an adult in a crosswalk in front of Riverdale Elementary School.
  3. We may not like it, but we need speed humps at all unsignalized crosswalks. If it's supposed to be safe to cross, and there isn't a red light or other effective traffic calming, we will need speed humps to ensure traffic slows to a safe speed at crossings. The modified exhaust system guys won't like it, and the pushback from drivers on our elected officials would be noisy and real. I don't know if a speed hump would have saved Rosa Guzman, who was killed in a marked but unsignalized crosswalk in Adelphi last month. But even the most highly engineered "complete streets" are a false promise if walkers and bike riders aren't protected from speeding cars.
  4. We need equity in safety and traffic calming investments. The chart below shows "context driven" traffic calming improvements in sections of Prince George's (to the right of the drawn-in dividing line) and Montgomery counties (on the left). Here's a link to the raw data in GIS form. It's pretty clear from the chart that Prince George's isn't getting as much investment as our neighboring county within SHA's District 3 zone.

MDOT's Context-Driven Improvements Through Sept 2023. upper Prince George's County is on the right; lower Montgomery County on the left. Source:

Friends of the Greenbelt East Trail

Full Trail Resources:

Sector 2 (NASA) Resources:

Our community partners in this effort are the City of Greenbelt, WABA, ATHA, the East Coast Greenway, the Greenbelt Community Development Corp., and the Glenn Dale Citizens Association. Would your company or organization like to help the trail effort? Please use reply to this newsletter or email us at [email protected] for more info. -Jeff

How Can You Help?

Please don't hesitate to reply to this email with info and corrections and ideas! Please forward this newsletter to your friends and encourage them to sign up for these emails too. We will need to reach out to more stakeholders and public officials whose help we will need to make a reality! -Jeff