Updated: Feb 7, 2019
Many Calvert County citizens have heard the claim by the County Commissioners about a study that has been done that shows that the majority of Calvert’s traffic is “pass-through” from adjoining Counties. This claim has been used to justify the Commissioners’ refusal to study traffic as part of the process of adopting a new Comprehensive Plan.
This video is one instance of Commissioner Hejl making this claim, which he made to the members of the Maryland Dept. of Planning on their recent visit to Calvert County.
Keep Calvert Country was curious about this “study” that continues to be promoted, so we requested a copy from the County Economic Development Department. Below is the response from Director Kelly Slagle:
“Thank you for your patience while I’ve been trying to nail down where the 67% out-commute number you inquired about comes from. I haven’t had much luck. Per Linda Vassallo (former Ec.Dev. Director), the study that Commissioner Hejl referenced in his remarks was the MDOT annual traffic count study which can be found here: http://www.roads.maryland.gov/Index.aspx?PageId=792”
The link Ms. Slagle shared is to the Maryland Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) “Traffic Volume Maps by County” (not a “study” about through traffic).
It was difficult for us to understand how the traffic counts shown on the MDOT map could be used to determine “through-traffic”, so we contacted MDOT ourselves.
Mr. Abhay Nigam, from MDOT’s Data Services Division, informed us that it actually is not possible. In an email following a phone conversation, he states:
“Thank you for calling in to our office to request the number of vehicles driving across Calvert county. Our traffic counting methodology just counts vehicles at the location. They do not have the capabilities to decipher the origin and or destination of the vehicle. So we would not be able to get you that data.”
Mr. Nigam forwarded our request to Carole Delion, of MDOT’s Travel Forecasting & Analysis Division, who stated in an email:
“Following Abhay’s response, MDOT SHA does not directly collect origin-destination.”
So … it appears that the Commissioners’ claims are false and unfounded. But why would they make false claims to the citizens? As stated earlier, one reason is to justify not studying traffic, and in fact, the consultant writing the Comprehensive Plan stated early on in the process that she “is not being paid to study traffic”. Perhaps that’s why this statement is found in the Transportation section of the current draft:
“The increases in traffic volume during the years of rapid growth still affect the perception of traffic volume changes that Calvert County residents report today. The county has not seen increasing levels of traffic along the primary county arterial road in recent years.”
It is doubtful that citizens, who are now finding themselves sitting through more than one traffic light cycle, believe it’s just their “perception”. And do they look at the cars around them and think, “well there’s nothing we can do about it because 67% of these cars are from other Counties”?
So where did the idea of making this claim originate? We have the answer to that too. Below is an excerpt from the February 8, 2016 minutes of the Small Business Interest Group (SBIG):
Pass-Through Traffic Data (Patrick) Buehler asked for data from the State Highway Administration or elsewhere on the amount of pass-through traffic going back and forth in Calvert County. He is interested in determining how much of the traffic generated in Calvert County is pass-through traffic coming from people who live in St. Mary’s, Charles or Anne Arundel County. He stated this information would be helpful when complaints are received from the general public about the negative impact new development will have on traffic in the county to show that if we had shopping here we would actually have less traffic. He feels the public is confused and thinks all the traffic in Calvert County is coming from people who live here. There was brief discussion on this issue. Linda Vassallo advised her department may have data from the Department of Labor Licensing & Statistics on where people work, although she was not certain it would give the pass-through numbers Buehler was seeking. (Richard) Holler stated the State Highway Administration did a study on this in the early 1990s. Barnett mentioned looking at the Census Bureau for information. (County Administrator Terry) Shannon stated they will research this and see what they can find.” Link to minutes: https://goo.gl/D93ETy
BINGO! But wait! There’s more!
At the May 30, 2018 Planning Commission meeting, where P&Z staff shared the 2nd draft of the Comprehensive Plan, the one and only Planning Commission comment made regarding the 200-page document came from Ms. Maria Buehler, who questioned staff about the following statement:
“Because Calvert County is a peninsula, it does not receive much through traffic.” (Page 2-2, 4th paragraph, 1st sentence)
In response, before publishing the 2nd draft on their website, P&Z staff revised the sentence to read:
“Because Calvert County is a peninsula, it has limited connections to neighboring jurisdictions.”
So now you know why the County Commissioners are refusing to study traffic as part of the Comprehensive Plan process. Keep Calvert Country believes that without such studies, the Plan should not recommend the enormous amount of growth proposed. Just a couple of examples of the proposed growth include an 83% increase in the size of Prince Frederick, along with new water and sewer policies that will ensure maximum densities in and around all Town Centers.
Failing to conduct the proper studies as part of the Comprehensive Plan is a disservice to the citizens of this County. Making up excuses for why you’re not studying traffic makes it even worse. It also violates Maryland law, which requires that:
"A Planning Commission shall prepare a Comprehensive Plan by carefully and comprehensively surveying and studying the present conditions and projections of future growth of the local jurisdiction."
Citizens are urged to get involved in the Comprehensive Plan process now, before it’s too late. The Commissioners are pushing to adopt it before the elections. Contrary to the Commissioners' claims that it's just a "visionary document", it is the policy document on which virtually every decision made by the County government must be based, and will affect our futures for the next 22 years.
Join Keep Calvert Country for a
COMMUNITY FORUM TO DISCUSS THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 6:30-9 pm Calvert High School Auditorium 600 Dares Beach Road, Prince Frederick