It's a number every realtor in Columbia knows—there's 93 miles of pathways that meander through the city, connecting everything from residential communities to village centers.
But that number could change, as Columbia Association looks to increase the pathway system by 51.5 miles.
The effort would be coordinated between CA and Howard County to increase connections on the pathways as well as signage and ease of travel, according to the plan that was submitted to CA's Board of Directors in September.
The county's responsibility exists on roads owned by the county, according to the plan. Connecting Columbia—the group of CA staff, residents and consultants that created the plan—noted in its plan it has coordinated its efforts with the county, which is working on its own Bicycle Master Plan to improve pathways throughout the county.
Connecting Columbia's plan is the culmination of work by a 15-member project team and 16-member task force in consultation with the professional planning firm the Toole Design Group.
Here are the key recommendations of the Connecting Columbia plan:
- Adding 51.5 miles of pathways to the system, 11.7 miles (23%) is CA responsibility, 38.2 miles (74%) is county responsibility, 1.6 miles (3%) other.
- Creating 20 high-priority routes, including paths along Little Patuxent Parkway, Snowden River Parkway, Cedar Lane, and Broken Land Parkway in Hickory Ridge.
- Making 30 dangerous intersections more passable, such as Thunderhill Road at Whiteacre Road, Stevens Forest Road at Whiteacre Road, Harpers Farm Road at Beaverkill Road and Twin Rivers Road at Kilimanjaro Road.
- Installing a 2.7-mile pathway extension to connect the downtown lakefront to the Patuxent Branch Trail.
- Installing a unified signage system complete with maps, neighborhood connection sign posts, directional signs and mile markers.
- Upgrading primary pathways (major cross-community connections) to 10 feet in width, secondary pathways (local routes w/ neighborhood and village connections) to 10 feet in width, and tertiary pathways (connecting cul-de-sacs) to 8 feet in width if necessary.
- Advocate to the county for on-street bikeways throughout Columbia on streets where traffic warrants them.
- Replace pathways based on a 20-year cycle (5 miles per year) rather than the current 30 to 45-year cycle (two to three miles per year).
- Develop a smartphone application or other electronic routing tool to help navigate the pathways.
- Work collaboratively with Howard County on the county-wide Bicycle Master Plan to improve and encourage bicycling and pedestrian mobility.
- Develop a pathway education campaign to highlight good etiquette on Columbia's pathways.
The plan is broken down based on priority, so important projects such as a bike route along Snowden River Parkway between Broken Land Parkway and Waterloo Road would take place first, while less important projects would be done over time.
The highest priority project—adding a 1.84-mile pathway along Little Patuxent Parkway between Cedar Lane and South Entrance Road—is a required improvement to be done by the Howard Hughes Corp. as part of Downtown Columbia redevelopment. That path, which will connect Blandair Park in the east with Howard County General Hospital in the west, is scheduled to begin construction early next year.
At a CA Board meeting in September, Dembner, who has headed up the Connecting Columbia work, told the Board the pathway plan will complete Jim Rouse's vision of the system, according to a report in Explore Howard.
The Board is expected to "accept and file" the Connecting Columbia final report at its Oct. 11 meeting.
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