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Catonsville Rails to Trails set to pave way for crucial crossing ramp on its Short Line Trail

Catonsville Rails to Trails is on track to construct a new crossing ramp on its Short Line Trail after recently being awarded more than $480,000 from the state.

The county is also required to pitch in at least 20% of the construction cost, Catonsville Rails to Trials President Sheldon Smith said.

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“We’re really happy, this has been maybe five, six, seven years in the works,” said CRTT Vice President and co-founder Maureen Sweeney Smith, who is not related to Sheldon Smith.

Catonsville Rails to Trails President Sheldon Smith stands on the temporary ramp at the site of the future Bloomsbury Crossing Project.
Catonsville Rails to Trails President Sheldon Smith stands on the temporary ramp at the site of the future Bloomsbury Crossing Project. (Cameron Goodnight)

The project, known as the Bloomsbury Crossing, will support local Catonsville residents with a link to Bloomsbury Avenue that leads to Asylum Lane and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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“What this project is going to do is raise the height of the trail so that it will interface exactly with one of the major streets,” Sheldon Smith said.

He built a temporary ramp on the trail, but it is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

“We had to do temporary things so people get the idea about certain plans,” Maureen Sweeney Smith said.

The project will require design of a sloping ramp that can provide easy access for any person in a bicycle or wheelchair.

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Part of problem is establishing “connections” on the trail because existing pathways would often dead-end, Sheldon Smith said.

In 1999, the group began clearing a walking pathway for the Short Line Trail, which was formerly the old Catonsville Short Line Railroad. In its heyday, the railroad carried passengers and coal from Baltimore to Catonsville after being built in 1884, she said.

“We built the trail in six sections and this will be our seventh section‚” Sheldon Smith said. “Once you have various sections, they’re good for people to walk in and use — but you try to find ways to connect them and that’s what we’re working on now is the connectivity of trails. That is the secret of trails.”

The seventh section will also welcome a new boardwalk behind Catonsville Elementary School, which is just 1,000 feet away from the Bloomsbury Crossing project.

“We have about $100,000 in grants that we’re putting in a boardwalk portion,” Maureen Sweeney Smith said. “We’re hoping to start construction on it very soon — sometime between July and August.”

She believes the completion of this section will encourage more residents to run errands while on the trail or partake on a bike ride after dinner.

“One of the things we try to do with all of our trails is to have them end up in a shopping area,” she said. “This particular trail connects several neighborhoods to the shopping district so people don’t drive cars and do healthier things like enjoy a nice bike ride.”

The boardwalk could be completed as soon as December, she said.

Rails to Trails shows a map of repurposed historic rail lines throughout Catonsville.
Rails to Trails shows a map of repurposed historic rail lines throughout Catonsville. (Baltimore Sun)

Rails to Trails, as the name suggests, is a nonprofit organization founded on the mission of promoting healthy living through converting abandoned rail and trolley lines into safe biking and hiking trails in Catonsville.

“When we first started people didn’t know what it was and didn’t understand trails,” Maureen Sweeney Smith said. “Since that time we’ve put several trails in several communities and people love them.”

Today, the trail extends from the Charleston Retirement Community on Maiden Choice Lane to the firehouse in Catonsville for a total of 2.2 miles, she said — all while preserving the history of the railroad and streetcar routes that once served the Catonsville area.

“We just keep trying to add something here and there,” Sheldon Smith said.

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