By Bruce Cohen - October 2, 2015
Bike Maryland is pleased with Governor Hogan’s announcement of over $14 million in bicycle and pedestrian projects. The geographic distribution of these grants benefit nearly every county in the state for pedestrian, bicycle and ATV access. Most of these projects are possible from the federally determined Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which funds the design and construction of non-highway projects including trails, landscaping, trailhead amenities and some stormwater management. The Maryland Department of Transportation’s Bikeways Program also made many of these projects possible. The Bikeways Program has enabled local jurisdictions to complete the design and construction of trails and on-road bike lanes as well as expand bikeshare service. As money from the Bikeways Program comes directly from the state, this money can be used as a match with federal funding to make bike projects more robust!
How were these projects selected? All these projects are locally driven. Local municipalities have to ask for the money to receive it. The fact that more local governments are competing illustrates the popularity of the TAP and RTP programs. These programs are remaining solvent through the commitment of Governor Hogan’s administration to benefit local economies and improve safety.
While many Baltimore advocates have expressed displeasure at the lack of metropolitan focus, Baltimore City still has major TAP/Bikeways projects that have not been completed: Jones Falls Trail Phase 5 and the Downtown Bicycle Network. Baltimore County does not apply for any project where a local match is required. That’s why we’re only seeing minor retrofits and storm grate replacements there; no real commitment to promoting safe walking and biking projects. Bike Maryland and other local residents and groups have been lobbying for the county to use some of these programs to begin studies on connecting the Torrey C. Brown/Northern Central Railroad Trail to the Jones Falls Trail, but so far, the Kamenetz Administration has shown no interest.
In many areas of the state, we’ve been incredibly happy with the local commitments to biking in places like Hagerstown, Salisbury, Emmitsburg and Williamsport – all of which received awards! Both Hagerstown and Salisbury have been recognized as Bicycle Friendly Communities and Williamsport and Emmitsburg are well on their way. Through this latest rounds of grants, Hagerstown will fill a trail gap, Salisbury will expand its bike network into downtown, Emmitsburg will build even more mountain bike trails, and Williamsport will restore an aqueduct on the C&O Canal Towpath.
While the aqueduct project accounts for a large portion of the dedicated funding, Williamsport and the National Park Service have lobbied consistently for these funds for some time. The improvements to the C&O Canal will accentuate biking improvements the town has made. With a population of less than 3000, Williamsport has bike lanes connecting the canal to town to draw visitors to local businesses, as well as hosting its first bike party last week. The aqueduct project will draw even more tourists to the area giving a boom to the local economy. While more biking tourists are expected in Williamsport, they will not find a nearby bike shop. After years of servicing locals and tourists alike, River City Cycles recently closed. Williamsport is a market ready for a new bike shop!
Bicycle and pedestrian projects are transcending party lines. Not only do they create safer conditions for all while reducing traffic congestion but studies repeatedly show that these projects create more jobs and boost access to businesses, thus increasing revenues. These are benefits that the entire state should have access to. Thanks again to Governor Hogan, MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn, and their staff for committing to these trail projects across the state.