BOWIE — Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) met with county officials in a roundtable discussion to talk about infrastructure needs throughout Prince George’s County on May 24.
Mayors and city councilmembers from Riverdale Park, Greenbelt, College Park, Laurel and Hyattsville, as well as county councilmembers, members of the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and representatives from Charles County, gathered at the Bowie City Hall to discuss their thoughts on infrastructure needs and revenue sources.
Hoyer said he thought it would be a good idea to bring together local officials to discuss the topic because infrastructure, along with job training and skills training, are some of the components of his Make It In American Initiative.
According to the congressman, the country has a $4.5 trillion deficit when it comes to infrastructure investment. That not only includes funding to fix roads but also updating the aging water and sewage facilities, utilities, public transportation and more.
“Infrastructure is not a vexing issue, and it’s not an issue that is necessarily controversial,” he said. “Everyone understands we have a substantial pothole problem on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway that backs the road up for hours; people know it’s a problem. When their water main breaks and they don’t have water for two hours…they know there is a problem.”
Following an introduction of all public officials who were participating, everyone went around the table to lay out the needs facing their municipality.
Bowie Mayor Fred Robinson said the city has “serious road issues” when it comes to not having enough lanes. In addition to road and stormwater projects, Robinson said the City of Bowie has a great water and sewage system that has been in the ground for 80 to 90 years, but they need to begin looking for a rational replacement before it breaks.
“What we’re looking for is financial systems” to remedy the costs, as well as low-cost loans and grants to kickstart their necessary projects,” Robinson said.
Bowie City Councilman Michael Esteve added on concerns about the Maglev train transportation system and asked if there were any updates about its future to which Hoyer responded that the project is currently on hold.
The federal government has met with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to discuss the project but is ultimately waiting on decisions from the state to move forward.
“The Maglev (train) is obviously something that is being discussed on a regular basis…as far as I can determine, there is not much movement on the project,” Hoyer said.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn listed a few priorities for the city such as projects that include areas for biking and walking, especially considering the university community where students walk and bike to class.
He also highlighted the strategic trails plan that the county as a whole has been part of which aims to make it easier and safer for people to walk and bike. Additionally, the city is looking at a $7 million stormwater management plan.
According to Wojahn, many of the programs in place “are federal programs for infrastructure that we’ve had in place for decades now and haven’t been changed.” He emphasized the need to look at these programs to make sure that we are not just prioritizing funding for roads and highways.
College Park City Councilmember Denise Mitchell added that reconstruction for Baltimore Avenue is another priority of College Park as they already have funding for phase one of the project but not phase two.
Mitchell also brought up the possibility of installing underground utilities, an estimated cost of $18 million, which Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said was also a priority of the city as well.
In 2018, the City of Hyattsville invested in a transportation study which found the need for $15 million for underground utilities as well as $12 million for road repairs.
With Hyattsville expecting at least 2,000 more residents by 2023, Hollingsworth said, the town is also advocating for the realignment and reconstruction of Baltimore Avenue, a MARC platform in downtown Hyattsville and $35 million for a second entrance to the Prince George’s Plaza Metro Station. But the development of infrastructure should not be the sole focus, she said.
“I really want to impress upon us the importance of developing the workforce for those efforts,” Hollingsworth said. The city of Hyattsville has started to do their part by developing a workforce development program to create pathways for public works, but Hollingsworth said she would like to see the program expand beyond her city.
Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan said his city faces significant challenges such as having a lot of large road networks and buildings built as early as 1937 that require substantial investment to maintain. Jordan said the city is “struggling” to make sure these stay in a state of good repair.
The city has big projects that they hope to start on such as repairs to the Greenbelt Dam, which is estimated to cost $25 million as well as connecting neighborhoods to the Metro station which could cost $2.5 million.
“These are services that we provide that our residents count on,” Jordan said emphasizing the importance of maintaining such services.
There is also an environmental component to infrastructure that needs to be looked at, said Mayor Pro Tem Judith Davis, which includes parks, playgrounds, forests and green infrastructure.
“All of those things that people just don’t think about but they are very important to our whole infrastructure,” she said.
Greenbelt Councilmember Colin Byrd added that internet access should also be considered an aspect of infrastructure.
With its 30,000 residents and 4.5 square miles encompassing a lot of federal, state and county roads, Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said the city requires a coordinated effort to address its infrastructure problems such as fixing roads, addressing the city’s bus systems and finding funding for flooding issues which mainly affects residents along the Patuxent River.
Riverdale Park Mayor Alan Thompson emphasized the need for improvements to pedestrian walkways such as the single pedestrian bridge in Riverdale Park (Riverdale Road Bridge) that hundreds of school children cross every day. Although the state is renovating the bridge, there are no plans to add a pedestrian walkway to it, so the city is advocating for a permanent pedestrian bridge that is estimated to cost $750,000.
They are also looking at adding a sidewalk along East-West Highway which is, unfortunately, the site of many hit and runs, Thompson said.