GREENBELT – Residents want the Greenbelt Metro to live up to its name. Sustainability and pedestrian-friendliness were two factors community members said were important at a public hearing on proposed changes to the Metro station held by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) at the Greenbelt Marriott hotel on Feb. 23. Highlights of the […]
GREENBELT – Residents want the Greenbelt Metro to live up to its name.
Sustainability and pedestrian-friendliness were two factors community members said were important at a public hearing on proposed changes to the Metro station held by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) at the Greenbelt Marriott hotel on Feb. 23.
Highlights of the proposal were presented by Andy Scott, Metro’s acting director of real estate and station planning, before the floor was opened to community comments. The changes would only take place if Greenbelt was chosen by the federal General Services Administration as the site of the new FBI headquarters.
The FBI complex would be located on the eastern portion of the Metro property, partially over areas currently occupied by the parking lot, with Metro’s facilities in a reconfigured layout on the western section. They would include a new eight-story garage with 3,669 parking spaces; a covered Kiss & Ride lot; a covered bus loop and an event bus layover parking lot; new bike lanes, racks and lockers; and a new pedestrian plaza at the station entrance. Much of the Metro facilities would have hotel, retail or residential development above them to create a mixed-use, transit-oriented development center.
“It’s meant to promote sustainability, transit ridership and economic benefits,” Scott said. “Metro has worked closely with jurisdictions around the region to promote transit-oriented development. That’s particularly true here in Prince George’s County where it’s a high priority of the county administration.”
The project would be a joint venture between Metro, Prince George’s County government and Renard Development Company. Additionally, the Maryland State Highway Administration has pledged to upgrade the I-495/I-95 interchange from a partial to a full interchange to accommodate FBI traffic.
“This is very significant,” said Malcolm Augustine, a member of the Metro Board of Directors from Prince George’s County. “It’s a large plan. We’re very excited about it and what a tremendous opportunity it is for Prince George’s County.”
The hearing provided county residents a chance to voice their opinions on the plan and areas where it could potentially be improved.
“There was a tremendous turnout and we got the chance to hear from people what was interesting to them, talking about some of the things we hope to be able to incorporate into the plan, so I think it went very well,” Augustine said.
Ten residents took the opportunity to testify at the hearing, including Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan.
Jordan said he liked some aspects of the plan, including the inclusion of a multi-story parking garage to replace the park and ride lot.
“Having a more compact footprint for the parking lot of the WMATA station will go a long way to improving the water quality in the Potomac and also in the Chesapeake Bay,” he said.
His main concern was with the proposed $14.50 fee for non-riders parking at the facility. Jordan said the station is a hub for MARC trains and interstate buses in addition to Metrorail and Metrobus, and passengers on those forms of transportation should not be burdened.
“Personally I, and I think a lot of people in Greenbelt, have a vision of the Metro station as a kind of multi-modal node for the metropolitan area,” he said. “I think there’s potential for more of that, so I ask you to reconsider the fee.”
Other testifiers wanted to make sure the needs of the pedestrians and bicyclists were met.
“We need to remember the community and not simply focus on the FBI workers that are going to be there between 9 and 5,” resident Drew Carlisle said.
He said efforts to include public art, add benches or create an outdoor café would serve to make the Metro a destination for residents as well.
“What I really want is to be purposeful in making a connection with the surrounding community,” Carlisle said. “Ultimately, I think what we can do is create a sense of place, and I think the plaza is really the most natural place to do that.”
Other residents said creating more bike or walking trails from nearby neighborhoods and apartment communities could both increase Metro ridership and raise community property values.
And on the issue of bicycling, resident Matt Johnson said he was “very concerned about this plan.” He said the eight-lane roads proposed with the plan are “very overbuilt.”
“That is not the kind of street we want in a walkable, urban environment and it’s not the kind of street that will feel very comfortable for people to walk (and bike) to and from the station site,” he said.
Johnson assumed the design was meant to accommodate the high volume of cars leaving the garages, but said since Greenbelt is the end of the line, Metro might want to re-examine the need for so many lanes.
“A train arriving at Greenbelt in the evening should be at its emptiest point at any point in its trip since downtown Washington,” Johnson said. “We need to consider whether those parameters are actually valid.
“I would remind people that we need to design a bikeway that goes all the way to the bike lot. Bicylists should not have to dismount at the end of some path and carry their bikes to get to the actual parking.”
Other suggestions included putting a covering over the pedestrian walkways, adding climate-controlled areas very close to the station for hot and cold days, and including green space in the design.
“I’d just appeal to people to save some green,” said Robert Boone, founder of the Anacostia Watershed Society. “We need to have a natural area around us.”
Metro officials will include the public comments in their report to the board, which should be drafted by April. Members of the public can still submit their input until 5 p.m. on March 4 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.