News & Politics

Highway-Loving Maryland Governor Puts Some Money Behind Bikes

Photograph by Flickr user Ted Eytan.

In his nine months as governor, Larry Hogan‘s tranportation policy has been overwhelmingly cars-first, from cutting tolls and expanding highways, to kneecapping Montgomery and Prince George’s counties on funding for the Purple Line and axing Baltimore’s planned Red Line light rail entirely.

But Tuesday evening, Hogan’s administration made a transportation-funding announcement unlike its previous ones: a $15 million investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that, among other things, will expand Capital Bikeshare in Montgomery County and improve bike access between Prince George’s County and the District. The funding, which is being distributed through a series of federal and state grants, was teased in the budget Hogan proposed earlier this year, but bike advocates are still relieved to see money for bike projects from such a car-centric governor.

We were keeping our eye on it to make sure it would stay,” says Greg Billing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “We certainly are glad to see it could stay.”

Montgomery County is getting $300,350 to build six 15-slot Bikeshare stations in Wheaton while Takoma Park will receive $100,000 to add two stations. While the latter town already has a few stations, the popular system will be brand-new to Wheaton, which has much less bike-ready infrastructure than its neighbors, though Billing hopes several dozen of the big, red bikes could change things.

“Our take on Bikeshare is that it’s the perfect way to introduce people to biking,” he says. “It’s not the solution, it’s just the beginning of the conversation to make a community bike-friendly.”

Montgomery County is moving aggressively on the two-wheeled front, including the writing of a new master plan that could invest as much as $170 million on bicycle infrastructure over the next six years.

Prince George’s County is getting $362,000 to put toward the design of the Central Avenue Connector Trail. The bike route, when built, is envisioned to run adjacent to the Blue Line between the Largo Town Center station the county’s border with the District, where it would connect with the Marvin Gaye Trail in Northeast. The most direct bike route between DC and Prince George’s County right now is Rhode Island Avenue, which offers little space to cyclists.

The other bike projects announced by Hogan are spread throughout the rest of Maryland. While Billing is encouraged by a little bit of investment, the state’s overall transportation agenda is still overwhelmingly titled toward cars and highways.

“When you talk about the entire Maryland transportation budget it’s a drop in the budget,” he says. “We can’t road-build our way out of traffic problems.”

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.