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baltimoresun.com

Work on Columbia pathway to connect hospital to Blandair to begin next year

By Lindsey McPherson, lmcpherson@patuxent.com

9:22 AM EDT, September 5, 2012

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Construction of the first segment of a multiuse pathway that will connect Howard County General Hospital to Blandair Park is expected to begin early next year.

Howard Hughes Corp. is required to build the path as a part of the downtown Columbia redevelopment process. Hughes and Toole Design Group, the landscape architecture firm hired to work on the project, outlined the design guidelines for the pathway and plans for the first segment before roughly 20 Columbia residents at a presubmission community meeting Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The first segment will start at the southeast corner of Broken Land Parkway and Little Patuxent Parkway, go down the south side of Little Patuxent by Symphony Woods, cross South Entrance Road and go down the east side of South Entrance to Swift Stream Place.

The path will be 10 feet wide with a 5-foot wide buffer from the road, according to project manager Daniel Biggs, of Toole Design.

The plan for the first segment is expected to go to the county Planning Board for approval by the end of the year, so construction can begin sometime in early 2013.

Brian Spencer, a consultant working for Howard Hughes on the redevelopment of downtown Columbia, said the construction will be timed so it won't interfere with the popular Wine in the Woods event in Symphony Woods, but he's not sure whether it will be conducted before or after the annual festival.

Planning for the second segment of the pathway is under way, and that proposal is expected to go through the approval process early next year so construction can begin shortly after the first segment is completed.

The second segment will start at the corner of Little Patuxent Parkway and Cedar Lane by Howard County General Hospital and go down the south side of Little Patuxent to the southeast corner of Broken Land Parkway, where it will join the first segment.

The remaining segments of the pathway will go from South Entrance Road across the Route 29 bridge and over the existing path system that goes across Stevens Forest Road and Thunder Hill Road and behind Oakland Mills High School to Blandair Park.

Lighting will be placed along each segment of the path, and bike racks will be added near destination points.

Placed at various points along the pathway will be "waysides," stopping points with signs identifying where people are and how to get to specific destinations such as the Lakefront, Symphony Woods and Howard Community College, among others.

In the first segment, a wayside is planned for the southeast corner of Broken Land Parkway and Little Patuxent Parkway and for the southeast corner of Little Patuxent Parkway and South Entrance Road. The one at South Entrance Road is planned as a "major wayside" that will include two benches and additional landscaping elements.

Positive response

The pathway received overwhelming support from the residents who attended the meeting, although many had questions about additional phases and how everything would connect.

Joel Broida, a resident of Town Center, asked if the planners had thought about prohibiting right-hand turns on red lights at intersections that cross over the path.

Most of the intersections have not been designed or engineered yet, Biggs said, but he said planners "are looking at right-on-red restrictions" at the Little Patuxent Parkway intersection with South Entrance Road.

A few people, primarily residents of Oakland Mills, asked how the pathway would work with the Bridge Columbia concept for a connection over Route 29 that would accommodate transit, in addition to cyclists and pedestrians.

Spencer said the pathway will be built to work with whatever connection exists at the time that section is complete, but the project will not interfere with Bridge Columbia or any other connection built across Route 29.

Jane Dembner, director of community planning for the Columbia Association and a cyclist, said she couldn't wait for the pathway to be built.

"Getting across Columbia, (even) only a mile or so, is quite difficult and this will give us something we don't have," she said.

Dembner noted that Howard Hughes' multi-use pathway will connect with existing and planned CA pathways.