The City of Takoma Park wants to convert New Hampshire Avenue, a high-speed urban arterial that runs along the city’s eastern boundary, into a multi-way boulevard, featuring wider sidewalks, updated bus stops, safer bicycle lanes, and more street trees. The City hopes that doing so will allow more people, especially residents of nearby neighborhoods, to more safely walk, bike, get to bus stops, and visit local shops along the heavily traveled corridor.
To support the City’s efforts, the Transportation Planning Board in October 2013 organized a workshop for planners, elected officials, and citizen advocates from around the region to hear about the City’s plans and to share their experiences implementing similar projects in their own local jurisdictions.
More than 30 people attended the workshop, which was the second such event organized in 2013 as part of the Regional Peer Exchange Network, a component of the TPB’s Transportation/ Land-Use Connections (TLC) Program. The TLC Program was launched in 2007 to provide local jurisdictions with technical assistance to better coordinate transportation and land-use planning at the local level. The network is a forum in which local jurisdictions can share best practices learned through TLC studies and planning activities.
The October 2013 workshop in Takoma Park highlighted two completed TLC projects related to New Hampshire Avenue. The first, completed in 2012, developed streetscape design standards to set the look and feel of the corridor, including sidewalk widths and paving materials, street tree species, street furniture types, and lighting fixtures, among others. The second project, completed in 2013, was a feasibility analysis to determine the challenges and opportunities of the planned conversion of New Hampshire Avenue into a multi-way boulevard, including the environmental, transportation, and utility impacts of such a major improvement.
Following the presentation, Takoma Park planners discussed these challenges and opportunities with attendees, hoping to draw on the experiences of planners in other jurisdictions. Attendees discussed ways to partner with neighboring jurisdictions, how to advocate for significant changes to a state-owned highway, and strategies for building broad business and public support. These discussions will inform the City’s plans for updating New Hampshire Avenue.
The TPB has hosted a number of other events since 2011 as part of the TLC Regional Peer Exchange Network, many of them through online webinars. Past events have included discussions of Fairfax County’s plans to use "mobility hubs" to help people transfer from one mode to another at the new Silver Line Metrorail stations in Tysons Corner, and efforts elsewhere in the region to explore development opportunities around commuter rail stations. More events are planned in 2014, with the next one slated to take place later this winter.
The TLC Regional Peer Exchange Network creates opportunities for area planners, officials, and citizens to exchange ideas and best practices regarding the coordination of transportation and land-use planning, so that local jurisdictions like Takoma Park can draw on shared regional knowledge and experience to move large transportation projects that support regional goals closer to implementation.