By Penny Riordan, Patch
The long-term plan for Baltimore County calls for 665 miles of improvements and additions to western roads and paths to make them more friendly to pedestrians and bicycles.
The improvements are part of the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan, which is the second of three stages of a comprehensive plan. The eastern portion was completed in 2006. The western plan includes the southwestern portion of Baltimore County, through Owings Mills, Reisterstown, Hunt Valley and Timonium.
It includes some insightful statistics on traveling in the region:
Drivers in Baltimore County travel 22.3 million miles a daily, which generates 12.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
According to a study by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council conducted in 2007-2008, more than 85 percent of all trips in the Baltimore region are made by car. Bicycling accounts for fewer than 1 percent of trips.
Yet when county planers look at the geography, 90 percent of the county lives in the urban part of the county, where one can easily draw a one-mile walkable radius from every school and bus stop in that area.
A 36-member committee developed the plan. The group held workshops in April, where residents shared what type of bicycle and pedestrian improvements they wanted to see in their neighborhoods. They worked on the plan for six months.
Councilman Tom Quirk, who has focused on biking and walking since taking office, said the overall support and feedback he received from the community was positive.
“A lot of young professionals moving to the area are looking for these types of things,” he said.
In total, residents identified 460 miles of roads that could be made more bicycle- friendly, 155 miles of shared-use path improvements and 50 miles of pedestrian improvements.
Shared-use paths are trails that are available for biking and pedestrians. They often link one community to another, such as the Trolley Trail No. 9 between Catonsville and Ellicott City.
After a final round of community input meetings, the plan will be presented to the Baltimore County Planning Board and ultimately voted on by the Baltimore County Council.
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night at the Benjamin Banneker Museum in Oella from 6 to 8 p.m.
One of the key recommendations of the plan is to make improvements to access, safety and surfaces of shared-used paths as well as linking them to other nearby trails.
The major improvements for southwest Baltimore County include:
creating a Patapsco River Path from the Baltimore city line through the edge of Southwest Baltimore County that could link UMBC to the city,
Extending the Short Line trail into Baltimore city
Trails that connect UMBC to both downtown Arbutus and Catonsville
The plan also calls for walking improvements to roads, including adding more crosswalks, pedestrian traffic signals and constructing more sidewalks.
In the Catonsville and Arbutus area, many roads are targeted for additional sidwalks. High priority areas include Edmondson Avenue, North Rolling Road between Frederick Road and Baltimore National Pike, Paradise Avenue, Sulphur Spring Road, Maiden Choice Lane between Garden Ridge Road and Charlestown and South Rolling Road.
Existing roads that are targeted for bicycle improvements such as striping, signs or lanes include most main roads in the area such as Rolling Road, Hollins Ferry Road, Frederick Road and Sulphur Spring Road.
Improvements around UMBC and CCBC that link the colleges to both Catonsville and Arbutus are considered part of the targeted area of the plan.
Despite the sheer size of the plan, local elected officials and committee members said they believe some of the goals can be implemented without too much cost. At this point, no dollar figure is attached to the document, as the final version hasn't been approved.
Quirk said he thinks the goals of the plan are doable.
“I’m going to be working hard to find the money and take it one project at a time,” he said.
He is focusing first on getting a multi-use lane on Edmondson Avenue that ends at the Baltimore city line.
Catonsville resident Ray Bahr, an avid cyclist who sat on the committee, said the plan represents a shift away from steering a majority of county money toward roads.
“If we can get policy away from being focused solely on the car and focus more on a more complete street, we can really change some things,” he said.
The county plans come at a time when Catonsville Rail to Trails has been working more on maintaining and expanding the network of Catonsville trails. Most recently, land for the Short Line Trail was transferred to the county.