Baltimore has a stake in Prince George's decision
Gov. Martin O'Malley's decision last week to relocate the Department of Housing and Community Development from Crownsville to Prince George's County. is almost certainly good politics -- and it could turn out to be good policy as well.
When you think about it, it just doesn't make much sense to locate a department that mostly serves urban communities on a leafy suburban campus far from transit routes. And Prince George's is an important population center with far superior transit connections.
But while the news is undoubtedly good for Prince George's, it could go either way for Baltimore. Certainly it's not like moving a department out of Baltimore to fulfill a pledge to that county -- as former Gov. Bob Ehrlich tried with the Department of Planning. But some Baltimore-area employees of the department could be severely inconvenienced if the wrong decision is made about where to locate in Prince George's County.
Two of the choices are bad for Baltimore, including the Prince George's government's favored choice of the Naylor Road Metro Station. Like the Branch Road Metro, it is simply too far to ask people to commute from the Baltimore area. To reach it be Metro, one would have to park at a nearby station and go all the way too downtown Washington to get to either Naylor or Branch. For employees of the department, it would be difficult to get to meetings in Baltimore.
That leaves two other locations identified by the O'Malley administration as potential transit-oriented development sites -- Laurel and New Carrollton. Both would be excellent choices from a Balto-centric point of view because both are served by MARC.
While Laurel would be great from a Baltimore point of view -- certainly as accessible as Crownsville -- it might not meet the goal of bringing employment to the core of Prince George's. It's also on the Camden Lines, which has less service than the Penn Line.
New Carrollton, on the other hand, has the best transit connections and most central location of all. Not only is it served by MARC, it has a Metro station and Amtrak connections as well. It's far more reachable by car from Baltimore than Naylor or Branch. A department employee could easily jump on a Penn Line train for a meeting in Baltimore and be back in the office by midafternoon. It's also the least inconvenient for the department employees who live in Anne Arundel County or on the Eastern Shore
The city and all of Baltimore's surrounding counties have a stake in the decision and should weigh in with the governor's office. The key is to see that in the selection process, as much weight as possible is given to MARC connections and accessibility for current department employees. On those counts, New Carrollton is a win for both the Baltimore and Washington regions.