Plans ramp up for Catonsville trail connection upgrades

After expanding the Short Line Railroad Trail last year, Catonsville Rails to Trails is set to take on its next project to improve the area's hiker-biker paths.

The project, known as Bloomsbury Crossing, will connect the existing Short Line Trail to Bloomsbury Avenue. From there, people will be able to cross the street and get to Asylum Lane and continue east toward Spring Grove and the Baltimore Beltway.

What's needed is a ramp to connect the path to the street, which is about 25 feet above the path.

Joe Shryock, a board member for the nonprofit, said the challenge is for the county to design a gently sloping ramp that meets the Americans with Disabilites Act standards, he said, meaning the incline can't be too steep.

In addition to helping bikers and walkers stay off roads, the crossing would be beneficial for students who walk to the new Catonsville Elementary School on Bloomsbury Avenue, Shryock said. School bus transportation is not provided for students who live within a one-mile walk of an elementary school.

The project is one cyclists are anticipating, said Scott Westcoat, owner of The Hub/C'ville Bikes on Frederick Road.

Bloomsbury Avenue in that area has been an unsafe spot or cyclists because of a blind spot and now it has more traffic with the addition of the school, Westcoat said.

"I think it's a big step in the right direction," he said. "There's these nice Rails to Trails built, but connecting them safely has been a big priority."

The project is being designed by county planners. County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said the design is expected to be completed before the end of summer.

The county, in partnership with Catonsville Rails to Trails, got a $50,000 grant from the State Maryland Bikeways Program for the design, Kobler said.

There is no cost estimate for the project.

Shryock hopes the project can be completed within two years, which includes raising necessary funds.

The project comes at a time when the nonprofit has completed much of the work needed on trails connecting the east and west sides of Catonsville. Its most recent project was a 1,500-foot expansion of the Short Line Railroad Trail completed last year that takes walkers and bikers from Asylum Lane to Locust Street.

The trail will ultimately be 2.2-miles, connecting Maiden Choice Lane to Mellor Avenue. Portions of the trail totaling about 1.75 miles — including a one-mile stretch east of Interstate 695, have been completed.

The Bloomsbury Crossing will advance the links.

"We knew we had to deal with this at some point," Shryock said about the connector. "Now is the time."

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