The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) kicked off a new season of anything-but-car travel Wednesday by approving funds for alternative transportation projects and accepting a plan to stretch this year’s “Car Free Day” into two days.
COG approved $1.2 million to fund four bicycle and pedestrian projects in Maryland, after having done the same in Virginia three months ago. The projects are:
• $222,841 to build eight Capital Bikeshare stations in Prince George’s County.
• $686,309 to support a cycling and pedestrian trail along U.S. 40 (Golden Mile) in the city of Frederick.
• $248,000 to help Montgomery County’s $20 million pedestrian tunnel construction under Forest Glen Road.
• $60,000 to conduct of study for a recreational path along Scott Drive and Veirs Drive in Rockville.
“A lot of times people choose to drive because they actually can’t get to and from a station,” said COG Transportation Planner John Swanson. “In many cases if they could walk, it would make all the difference.”
The difference COG hopes to make is in “economic emphasis” areas, where low-income residents live. Mr. Swanson said connecting those areas to transportation hubs makes it easier and safer to get to work, and increases access to vital services like Holy Cross Hospital.
“There are anecdotal stories about pregnant women crossing the street at dangerous points along there,” he said.
The Transportation Alternatives Program is new, and Mr. Swanson said he’ll be looking closely at how the projects ensue. The good news is “these things don’t cost nearly as much as a road costs, and typically they can move a lot quicker once they’re under way,” he said.
The District is up next for transportation projects, and the District Department of Transportation is expected to pitch COG on ways to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The public is encouraged to approach DDOT and the D.C. Council with ideas for projects before the Aug. 15 deadline.
COG also voted Wednesday to extend international Car Free Day from Sept. 21 to Sept. 22 “because we want to get commuters involved as well,” a COG representative said.
Participants are encouraged to bike, walk, carpool, take Metro or telework on Friday and Saturday to help the environment and to learn about other ways to get around, said program director Nicholas Ramfos.
“This is something that places do all around the world,” said Charles Allen, chairman of COG’s Transportation Board, adding that he was “excited” about this year’s two-day event.
Mr. Ramfos told The Washington Times the last time Car Free fell on a weekend, his kids were younger and had sports practice: “I made everyone carpool to the grocery store and carpool to their practices.”
“We’re looking for all individuals throughout the region, whether you’re a worker, student, stay-at-home individual or senior,” he said. “It’s basically to use some alternative mode to get to where you’re going.”
Last year, 11,000 residents pledged to ditch their cars for the event. COG estimates that saved $26,000 in commuting costs, 10,000 gallons of gasoline and 190,000 miles of vehicle travel.
This year COG hopes to hit the same numbers and will be bringing back the Chipotle “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” prize for all pledges.
The September event will be a busy time for the region, which also will be hosting several other events such as Virginia’s “Dry Transit Week.”
Pledges for the Car Free Days can be made starting Aug. 1 at carfreemetrodc.org.
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