Opinion -- Worst traffic back-ups coming soon to Calvert

Prince Frederick, MD - As currently drafted, the new comprehensive plan is likely to create the worst traffic backups this county has ever seen. The worst traffic congestion will begin in Prince Frederick.

When it was adopted in 1989, the Prince Frederick Master Plan predicted big increases in traffic volume. To address the problem, it called for controlled growth and the completion of the Calvert County loop road system around the town center, two overpasses and an underpass, and the widening of MD 2/4. The 2004 Comprehensive Plan noted that “The projects in Prince Frederick will improve conditions for the future, provided that County growth does not significantly exceed 37,000 dwelling units.”

The western side of the loop road (Prince Frederick Boulevard) is almost completed and the state has been widening Route 4 to six lanes. However, eastern side of the loop road, known as Chesapeake Boulevard, has not been constructed and no overpasses are currently in planning stage by the state in Prince Frederick. The underpass was originally in the state plans but it was removed. Meanwhile, traffic predictions in the Prince Frederick Plan were born out. Without the completion of all planned road improvements, traffic is backing up two miles during most work-days on south-bound Maryland 4.

Meanwhile, the Commissioners have increased residential zoning density in Prince Frederick and the new Comprehensive Plan calls for dramatically expanding Prince Frederick town center, and other town centers, and increasing the number of dwelling units beyond 37,000. However, the County has not conducted new traffic studies to assess the impact of that new development.

In its letter to the state last April, and presented to the state in October, the Commissioners noted that daily traffic volume is currently 48,600 in Prince Frederick and it will increase to 83,600 by 2030[1]. Mere road widening through Prince Frederick, which is currently under design, will not fix the problem. In fact, a 2013 state traffic study predicted that 16 intersections through Prince Frederick would fail, even planned widening of Route 4 and completion of Chesapeake Boulevard.
Increasing residential growth capacity without properly addressing road capacity is irresponsible and the Planning Commission should address this problem before approving the Plan. Otherwise, we all will see our quality of life suffer.

To read the report, go to PAGE 13 on this Report from the Maryland Department of Transportation. 

Editor's note: Greg Bowen, a lifelong Calvert County resident, is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and the former director of the Calvert County Department of Planning and Zoning.  

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