Gottemoeller said he believes the bridge project would cost between $10 million and $15 million and that the majority of costs could be paid for with state and federal grants.

Barbara Kellner, executive director of Columbia Archives, said public transportation was one of Rouse's goals that was never fully realized. He created a bus system for the earliest residents, but it was later taken over by the county.

Kellner said public transportation "would take time to adjust here because we don't have an urban culture." But she added that the bridge project could provide a route for residents who move to new, more urban-style downtown developments and don't have their own outdoor space. They would be more inclined to walk, bike or hop on a bus over to Blandair Regional Park.

"I find it inspirational that they are thinking so big. That's what Columbia is all about," she said.

When the original footbridge was first discussed in the early 1970s, she said, those residents had similar goals to those lobbying for bridge improvements today — to promote bicycle riding and walking for the green and health benefits. It took those residents 10 years to accomplish their goal.

When Columbia was founded, U.S. 29 was just a two-lane road, which has grown with the city. In the next few years, Columbia's population is expected to reach 100,000 residents with the redevelopment of downtown — the first major project is slated to have more than 800 residential units.

Sandy Cederbaum, the Oakland Mills village manager, said she hopes a transit bridge would create a welcoming, easily accessible corridor to bring residents into the community and help address negative attitudes about the crossing.

Residents have complained about crime in the village, including near the bridge footpath. That reputation, however, may be overblown, Cederbaum said.

"People would say it's not safe. It's underutilized. People just won't use it," she said. "It's a perception more than that there are issues on the bridge."

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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