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Aberdeen awarded $796,000 grant for train station improvements; Harford denied funding for trail extension

Aberdeen has been awarded a grant for nearly $800,000 for enhancements to the area around the Amtrak-MARC train station, city officials said Thursday.

Included in the planned renovations will be new benches, bike racks, signs and landscaping, as well as anti-crime additions such as improved lighting, Phyllis Grover, Aberdeen’s director of planning and community development, said.

The Transportation Alternatives Program grant comes from the federal government through Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration, which is dispersed through the Baltimore Metropolitan Regional Transportation Board, according to county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby.

Aberdeen applied for the grant in the spring and Harford County over the summer.

Mumby said the county was notified it was not awarded anything through the transportation board but that other funding could be available from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Aberdeen’s grant for $796,342 is one of the largest awards the city has received, Randy Robertson, Aberdeen’s city manager, said.

“It’s a big amount of money and from my perspective, it will have a tremendously positive impact on community and getting people to consider commuting,” he said.

The interior of the station underwent significant improvements in late spring/early summer. The pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks received a facelift and the walls were coated with grafitti-resistant paint. A new security camera was installed on the overpass to monitor activity.

“On top of the $300,000 for inside the station a few months ago, what you’ll see is a completely new train station in the not-too-distant future,” Robertson said.

Grant money will also fund connecting sidewalks where there may be breaks to make them more easily accessible to people in wheelchairs and adding sidewalks along East Bel Air Avenue and Polk Street near the station.Lighting will be added where there isn’t any, and wayfinding signs will also be installed to help direct people to the train station.

“It’s to connect people to transit or to pedestrian ways,” Grover said.

“It will beautify the area, light it up and beautify it,” she said. “With lights, benches, it will improve conditions of the train station to make it more pedestrian-friendly.”

“It will be great for the area around the station, the commuters who use it on a daily basis and the residents who live around it,” Grover said.

Ma & Pa Trail

Harford County also applied for a $2.65 million Transportation Alternatives Program grant to be used to build the connection between the north and south ends of the Ma & Pa Trail, Mumby said Thursday.

While the county was not awarded a grant through the transportation board, which had $2.1 million available to disperse throughout Maryland, it is still eligible to receive TAP funding directly through the Maryland Department of Transportation, she said.

The county expects to hear in the fall if it will receive any funding, Mumby said.

The county had been negotiating with the estate of the late State Sen. Robert Hooper for an easement through the family’s property on Ellendale Street and nearly a year ago, the county announced it had finally obtained the last piece to the middle link.

The easement allows the county to build the middle 2 miles that will connect to create a 7.5-mile continuous trail from Friends Park in Forest Hill to Annie’s Playground in Fallston.

The county agreed to pay $100,000 for an approximately 660-foot long by 20-foot wide easement. The Town of Bel Air agreed to pay $75,000 for an easement to provide an entrance and exit and other amenities along the stretch of the trail that is within the town's borders.

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