After years of fighting to keep Oxon Hill Road at two lanes, discussion of a proposed development nearby has reignited debate over whether the thoroughfare should be widened.
The Prince George’s County Council, which acts as the District Council on zoning issues, held a hearing on various plans for the proposed Tanger outlet mall, which would have an entrance on the road. Council members focused on the potential traffic problems that a 460,000-square-foot retail development could cause in surrounding neighborhoods.
Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) of Fort Washington inquired with representatives for Fairfax, Va.-based developer The Peterson Cos., which is developing the mall, and county planning staff at the hearing about plans for improvements to Oxon Hill Road, asking about the possibility of expanding it from two to four lanes.
“What kind of input have you gotten about [residents’] input on what they’d like to see for Oxon Hill Road?” Patterson asked. “Am I correct when I say that [current plans] are for a four-lane road from [Indian Head Highway] to [the Leary School] and then from that point on just an improved two-lane road down to Fort Foote Road?”
Andre Gingles, an attorney representing the developer, said he has heard some residents “want to see Oxon Hill Road widened to become a four-lane road, and in front of [the Tanger] property, it is a four-lane road.”
But some residents said after the meeting that they were surprised Patterson would bring up the issue now, since the current two-lane plan is well on its way to construction. Susan Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Public Works and Transportation, said her agency recently selected a contractor to carry out the two-lane road improvements - which include roundabouts to keep the road primarily residential - and construction is set to begin later this fall.
Dick Kreuger, president of the nearby Broad Creek Historic District Local Advisory Committee, said Tuesday that he was “borderline horrified” that the Oxon Hill Road issue was brought up again, since community members fought vigorously over the past several years to keep the road at two lanes.
“The contract is out, this is not the time to argue that,” Kreuger said. “We’ve argued about that for going on six years now, and the decision was made three years ago.”
Kreuger said that, according to traffic studies associated with the project, only 20 percent of people who would visit the proposed outlets would use Oxon Hill Road, and instead use major roads like Indian Head Highway. Kreuger added that the addition of roundabouts could actually decrease traffic on the road, as people who currently use it as a cut-through would likely begin taking a different route.
And the logistics of making the road four lanes would be detrimental to residents who already live along Oxon Hill Road, he said.
“If you look at the ramifications of making a four-lane road with bike lanes and sidewalks, all those people [who live on the road] will lose a big chunk of their front yards,” he said. “The road would have to be 15 feet wider on either side, and there just isn’t any room to take that except out of people’s front yards.”
County Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale spoke at the hearing and seemed to echo Patterson’s concerns about Oxon Hill Road’s future as a two-lane thoroughfare.
“We’ve heard time and again from a number of residents about the challenges of Oxon Hill Road,” Harrison said. “I’m troubled that the traffic study says Oxon Hill Road is operating on an acceptable level. ... I’m very concerned for the residents along Oxon Hill Road, as well as those who use it as a cut-through.”
Carla Ragland-Rose, 48, of Fort Washington said she was opposed to the Tanger project in part because she fears an increase in traffic in her commute, during which she cuts through on Oxon Hill Road.
“[Harbor Drive] is terrible from 3 until 7 p.m., along with Oxon Hill Road and [Indian Head Highway],” Ragland-Rose said at the hearing. “I wonder what options will there be for residents if Tanger Mall would be built there for them to get home at a decent time in the evening? It already takes three times as long as it should.”