Howard County on Tuesday announced an $8 million improvement program for the county’s fledgling bike network, one of its first steps to implement its BikeHoward Master Plan.
The “BikeHoward Express” initiative is a three-year plan to bring the first wave of new bike lanes, designated shared roadways and bike pathways to the county.
The 48 miles in improvements, including 14 miles of additional bike lanes, are a portion of projects in a 2016 Bike Master Plan that calls for transforming the county into a bike-friendly community.
Highlights of the improvements, slated to start coming online this year, include connections from the North Laurel Connections bicycle route from Savage to North Laurel and a pathway connection from Howard Community College to Little Patuxent Parkway.
The county will fund about $3.3 million of the improvements and the state will provide $4.7 million through grant funding, according to Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Eatough.
The money is the most significant funding for the network put forward by the county since the plan’s passage, and follows two years of frustration from county bike advocates who said the network was underfunded. Last year the county provided $600,000 for the network, while Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties spent millions on their cycling projects.
Chris Tsien, chief legal and financial officer for Bike Advocates of Howard County, said while he believes the initiative is a promising step, he wants to see a published long-term plan for completing the entire network. Tsien said he’s also concerned by the funding the county is relying on from the state, which he worries could fall through.
“While it’s a good start getting a plan together to implement the master plan, really the proof comes in the money,” he said.
Eatough said the express initiative includes the “core network” of the master plan to help connect people to major destinations in the county, including MARC commuter train stations, park-and-ride carpool lots and the Columbia Gateway District, a business campus.
“We all need to be moving in the same direction to get this done in three years, and having this kind of road map and funding plan just keeps everyone on the same page and helps us get things done more efficiently,” Eatough said.