Maryland's growth initiative is not simply a collection of anti-sprawl measures, it embodies the fundamental understanding that identity is not built with new structures, it is discovered in the strengths of the 'structures' we have.
THE COMMUNITY AND GROWTH
Maryland’s growth management program is having a dramatic impact on land
use decisions across the state. This initiative is not simply a collection of
anti-sprawl measures, it embodies the fundamental understanding that identity
is not built with new structures, it is discovered in the strengths of the “structures”
we have. Existing neighborhoods, greenbelts, brownfields, growth areas, are
all acknowledged as producers of identity and quality, not as disposable abstractions.
In other words, we are beginning to understand that listening to the voices
of what we have produced may be the most sustainable way to the future. As part
of this overall initiative, the State Highway Administration uses a strategy
called Thinking Beyond the Pavement, which aligns transportation planning with land use decisions. It supports
growth management by placing emphasis on the people, neighborhoods, and businesses
that must be served by the transportation network and on the environmentally
sensitive areas of the state that must be protected. The aim is to make our
existing communities functional and vibrant places to work and live, take advantage
of the road and transit systems that already exist, and offer our citizens a
balanced transportation system, one that fits with communities, is oriented
to all users, and where walking, bicycling, and transit are realistic options.
We have already had some successes and we are learning more and more as we move
forward. On Bond Street in Bel Air in Harford County, we were able to create a pedestrian- friendly environment
and integrate the many businesses there into Harford County’s main civic
and commercial center. On MD 144 in Catonsville we improved the roadway, added
side- walks, and other streetscape enhancements which stimulated local businesses
to improve their properties and magnify the impact of roadway-based improvements.
The project taught that the business community must be an integral part of the
design process. Thinking Beyond the Pavement principles were also brought to
bear in Mt. Rainier, a transit-oriented community near Washington, D.C. Residents
felt the state road divided their community. Intensive community involvement
produced a fundamental change in the way pedestrians, cars, and transit was
to be handled and led to a striking change in the appearance of the roadway
and its surroundings. The project showed that communities are often less afraid
of change than the designers. In all of these projects, the key to success was
moving away from a standards-driven process to a flexible, community-friendly
approach that seeks to balance the performance and safety features of the highway
with the shape of the built environment. In the past, a few projects met these
criteria, but the new goal is to use this approach in all Main Street-type projects.