Green Complete Streets for a Safer Swann Road

Since the turn of the millennium, the town of Suitland, Maryland, has experienced a momentum shift away from decay and toward a long-planned revitalization thanks to substantial commercial development. In 2013, the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation initiated a concept study to improve Swann Road from Silver Hill Road to Dianna Drive in support of these changes. The goal was to incorporate green and complete streets concepts that focus on creating livable, attractive communities.

A complete streets approach offers guidelines to design and operate transportation infrastructure that facilitates safe access for all users. These improvements make it easier for people to walk, bike and use public transportation. Green streets principles focus on managing stormwater runoff using best practices to minimize environmental impacts and increase water quality. Together, these protocols support the creation of livable communities through beautification, functionality and sustainability.

At the time the study began, sidewalks along Swann Road were intermittent throughout the community, and despite the section being predominantly residential in nature, drivers regularly used the road as a throughway. County officials contracted KCI to evaluate five concepts for the corridor and prepare final design plans that incorporated complete and green streets approaches including sidewalks, street trees, lighting, Environmental Site Design (ESD), stormwater facilities, traffic calming and bike lanes throughout the project. Desired project outcomes focused on improved mobility and sustainability, including:

  • Improving pedestrian facilities by providing continuous ADA-compliant sidewalks, ramps, crosswalks, lighting and traffic calming
  • Widening the existing roadway for bike lanes in each direction
  • Providing curb and gutter to direct water runoff to bioswales along the Swann Road
  • Lessening polluted stormwater entering streams by providing pervious sidewalk and green space

Engineers initiated the project by gathering existing roadway plans, utility plans, intersection traffic counts, recent accident data, available GIS mapping, and existing right-of-way plats. Traffic calming strategies including bump outs and speed humps were investigated, and lighting plans were developed. Existing parking was studied to determine the impacts of converting on-street parking and shoulders to bicycle lanes.

The final design included continuous five-foot sidewalks along both sides of the road, new curbs and gutters, raised crosswalks, on-street parking, widening, and resurfacing. We combined existing speed humps with raised crosswalks to improve safety, reduce speed and increase pedestrian access.

Dion K. Ho, PEProject Manager

Dion K. Ho, PE

In addition to incorporating complete streets mobility improvements, the team also focused on sustainability through green street components. KCI performed a field visit and evaluated all areas of proposed construction and points of stormwater discharge. Conceptual stormwater management concepts were prepared based on overall drainage patterns and existing land use.

Swann Road Foliage
KCI’s landscape architects evaluated existing trees that may have been impacted and developed a palette of trees along the walkway to maintain a natural appearance.

Sustainability features built into the Swann Road improvement project treated stormwater through pervious concrete sidewalk, landscaping and seven bioswales. These bioretention facilities consist of vegetated areas that collect and filter silt and pollution from surface runoff, located along the roadway. To reduce right-of-way impacts and make the best use of existing County-owned property, the team worked with the board of education to utilize the elementary school site for a microbioretention.

Swann Road Speed Hump
Together, the sustainability and mobility features created a comprehensive urban streetscape to enhance both the aesthetics and walkability of the entire area while better treating drainage from the roadway surface.

To finish the project within the proposed schedule, KCI designed modified inlets with extended throat openings to meet clearance requirements and worked with utility companies to minimize the number of required relocations for aerial and underground utilities. By modifying drainage designs and shifting sidewalk alignments, more than 10 existing poles and all underground utilities were avoided. In response, utility companies completed utility pole relocations well ahead of groundbreaking to ensure no impact to the construction schedule.

Public involvement and support were also a critical component of the Swann Road project. Residents were initially concerned about loss of on-street parking, leading to the County’s offer to increase driveway sizes and allow residents to park two vehicles side-by-side. Team members gauged the amount of square footage needed for the upgrades as well as determining a nominal dollar amount necessary to widen the driveways.

Swann Road New Driveway Addition
Team members visited and negotiated with each individual property owner along the project, developing a unique agreement for each household. Residents who did not wish to improve their existing driveway could opt to receive the monetary equivalent instead.

Groundbreaking was celebrated by residents, County officials, legislators and the design and contracting team in June of 2017. Construction was completed on schedule and within budget. While a green complete street project can be more costly than minimal sidewalk improvements, the upgrades provide the invaluable impact of enhanced quality of life for the surrounding community.

The Swann Road Green Complete Streets project provided this working-class neighborhood safe and inviting pedestrian access to the local elementary school. The ADA-compliant full-length sidewalks, new bike lanes and raised crosswalk speed humps have improved safety for residents. The implementation of bioretention facilities using natural resources increased both stormwater drainage and environmental beauty in the area. The blend of functionality, sustainability and aesthetic enhancements will help to retain existing residents, attract future homeowners, increase property values and create a more livable neighborhood.