Carroll County residents invited to voice views on improving walking and cycling in area

In Eldersburg, pedestrians wait uneasily to cross the busy, dual-lane roadways of Route 26 and Route 32 as they make their way to and from nearby subdivisions, Liberty High School, the Eldersburg Post Office and local strip malls.

The expressions on their faces are not surprising, considering that many of the suburban streetscapes in the town and the surrounding Freedom District were built when the automobile ruled supreme.

Back then, pedestrian amenities such as sidewalks, crosswalks and bike paths were an afterthought or given no thought at all.

"Most everybody I've talked to says, 'I'll ride my bike all around Eldersburg. But I won't ride it on Route 26 or try to cross Route 26 on foot.'," said Scott Graf, a planner in the Carroll County Bureau of Comprehensive Planning. "That's been said to me over and over."

In recent months, Graf and other county planners have been gathering public input for a Freedom Area Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan, a blueprint for making Eldersburg, Sykesville and the surrounding South Carroll area more hikeable and bikeable.

On March 13, at 7 p.m., Graf and his staff will host a public meeting at the South Carroll Senior and Community Center to present a draft of a "master map" of ways to make the area more pedestrian- and bicycle-accessible.

"We've mapped all the suggestions that came out of our first public meeting in October and we'll roll that out at the March 13 meeting," Graf said.

"We're going to present it and ask residents if this is what they have in mind, or if we've missed anything or if there's anything on there that they'd rather not see," he said.

Graf said he and his staff received "good, positive feedback" at the March meeting when they first introduced the proposal.

"If there was a driving theme behind that first meeting, it was to identify key origins and key destinations, whether it was downtown Sykesville, Piney Run Park, or a shopping center or a school," he said.

"People want to ultimately see a seamless network that will get them to and from these key destinations," Graf said.

Considering the existing transportation infrastructure in this densely populated part of the county, Graf conceded that, "We're not going to be able to come in and retrofit all those developments with no sidewalks.

"But we'd like to provide primary links between those developments," he said.

Graf acknowledged that there are challenges to such a project, especially funding.

"Currently, nobody seems to have any funds available at any level of government." he said.

Still, he pointed out, just a few key changes could go a long way.

"If you would upgrade Routes 26 and 32 to modern state standards that require upgrades of state roadways in urban areas to include pedestrian facilities, you could do a lot," he said. "That alone would provide a lot of linkages and tie a lot of destinations together.

"And if county roadways in the area like Oklahoma, Linton and Ridge roads had consistent shoulders and pavement widths, that would help, as well," he added.

Graf pointed out that the timing of the Freedom Area Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan is critical, since it will complement, and be linked with, two other on-going Freedom area planning projects:

• the Maryland Department of Transportation grant-funded Eldersburg-Sykesville bikeway analysis

• the ongoing update of Freedom's comprehensive plan.

"Ultimately, we're going to end up with a finished product that will be incorporated into the updated Freedom Master Plan in some way, shape or form," Graf said. 

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