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Trail improvements underway for Hyattsville and beyond funded by federal government

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Posted on: September 14, 2023

By Jordan Williams

To the delight — and relief — of many bicyclists in the area, the county trail network is on the verge of numerous renovations, thanks to a $25 million federal RAISE grant. Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE, is a federal program designed to fund local transportation infrastructure projects. The program was recently bolstered with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 to allow for more projects.

In partnership with agencies in Montgomery County and the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County applied for a RAISE grant to help renovate existing trails and build new ones. County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said in a June newsletter, “The $25 million in RAISE funding will accelerate more than $70 million in regional projects that help build the Central Avenue Connector Trail, Suitland Parkway Trail, and Prince George’s County Connector, complete the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and rehabilitate Sligo Creek Trail and Northwest Branch Trail.”

This is the second RAISE grant that the county has received. The first, received in 2022, allocated $20.5 million to fund construction of the New Carrollton Multi-Modal Transportation Station.

According to a 2021 survey from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), “19% of residents in county households reported unmet needs regarding walking, hiking and biking trails.” These projects are meant to address those underserved communities.

The most relevant projects for Hyattsville include the Sligo Creek Trail, the Prince George’s County Connector, and a 1.3-mile repaving project on the Northwest Branch Trail in Montgomery County. Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch connect Hyattsville to Montgomery County, and the County Connector will connect the Northwest Branch Trail from Chillum to the Metropolitan Branch Trail in the District.

Bob Patten, the trail development program manager for the M-NCPPC, said in an interview that the tentative time frame of the Northwest Branch and Sligo Creek trails is three to four years, and major trail closures are unlikely. Since the County Connector is still in the early planning phases, there is no timeline or completion date yet, according to Patten.

Sligo Creek Trail is one of the oldest trails in the region and will see the most renovations, with 6.7 miles of the total 10.2-mile trail to be repaved.

Four road intersections will receive improved pedestrian crossings — the two most notable ones being the East-West Highway/Route 410 and the Riggs Road/Route 212 intersections. For years, residents have expressed particular interest in the renovations at these intersections due to the need for more safety features.

“The Sligo crossings at 410/East-West and 212/ Riggs are terribly unsafe and scary,” said Hyattsville resident Melissa Schweisguth in an email to the Life & Times. Schweisguth uses the trails daily to run errands. “I always dismount on my bike and cross these roads lane by lane unless there are no cars around,” she said.

Schweisguth was involved in a 2020 petition sent to the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (SHA), suggesting possible improvements to the crossings. The petition was unsuccessful at that time — but with the RAISE grant, the county was able to secure a partnership with the SHA and incorporate safety measures. According to Patten, the project is still in the planning phase, so the specific safety features are not clear; however, he alluded to improved traffic lights and better marked pedestrian crosswalks.

Patten said that the RAISE grant was critical in securing a SHA partnership. Because so many groups want to work with SHA, the administration is very particular about the projects it takes on. “The RAISE grant funding made us a higher priority to the SHA and put us on the top of their list,” he explained.

The County Connector — another important project for Hyattsville — will connect the  Northwest Branch Trail to the Metropolitan Branch Trail in the District. While the planned trail is relatively short, at 0.8 miles, the connection will provide county bicyclists with another route into D.C. that avoids main roads.

Riverdale Park resident Dan Behrend, who bikes to work in the District, is particularly excited about the County Connector. “They have been talking about the PG Connector for years — since before I moved here [in 2013],” Behrend told the Life & Times. “I’m glad this grant allows them to finally get the project off the ground.”

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