A group of residents is advocating for a new bridge to replace what its members say is the unsafe 28-year-old structure extending over U.S. 29 between the Town Center and Oakland Mills villages.
Bridge Columbia, which recently launched a website documenting its efforts, wants the current pedestrian bridge over U.S. 29 to be replaced with one wide and open enough to accommodate buses, pedestrians and cyclists. The group also has a Facebook page.
The bridge would connect the east and west sides of Columbia, linking Howard Community College, Howard County General Hospital and the Town Center to the Oakland Mills Village Center and Blandair Park, advocates say.
The group’s website said the current bridge looks unsafe and its enclosed design makes walkers feel trapped.
“We keep beating the drum about this,” said one of the group’s founders, Dave Bittner. “This is something that would be great for our community. The bridge we have now is not good for our community; it’s ugly, unsafe.”
“The idea is [creating] an architecturally significant-- a beautiful iconic structure that befits our community,” he added.
Group members estimate the bridge would cost $15-$20 million, money that would come from Howard County, the State Highway Administration and federal sources, Bittner said.
Columbia resident Fred Gottemoeller, a bridge architect, and landscape architect John Slater are also in the group, according to a press release. Core members also include Bob Bartolo, a retired real estate developer, Karen Gray, a former Oakland Mills village board member, and former Rouse employee Peter Tocco.
At this point, group members are looking for “some leadership from the county” to champion the project, Bittner said.
Howard County officials didn't immediately respond Wednesday to inquiries about their position on the concept
The idea of Bridge Columbia has generated recent buzz locally, although it’s been discussed for years.
Columbia teacher and blogger—and Oakland Mills resident Julia McCready-- included the bridge in a recent guest column regarding her Christmas wishes for Columbia.
And, in November 2009, retired planner Philip Engelke had this to say about the current graffiti-scrawled bridge in the Baltimore Sun:
"It looks a little like Guantanamo Bay," he told the paper.
Do you think Columbia needs a new Route 29 bridge? Tell us in our poll or in comments.