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Howard County and Laurel were among a group of jurisdictions granted state funding this week that will result in new and enhanced bike paths in their communities.

The funds were a portion of $2.3 million awarded to 14 jurisdictions by Gov. Martin O'Malley through the state's Maryland Bikeways Program. The program is administered by the Maryland Department of Transportation and supports projects that "create and improve bicycle connections in Maryland to key destinations," according to a news release. 

"Establishing a modern transportation system is more than building roadways, runways and railways -- it means investing in projects that support alternative forms of travel like bicycling," said O'Malley in a statement.

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Howard is receiving $160,000 to go toward design work for three projects: $80,000 for a shared-use path from downtown Columbia to Stevens Forest Road in east Columbia, $40,000 for a shared-use path and bike route between Cedar Lane and Harpers Farm Road in west Columbia, and $40,000 to extend the Patuxent Branch Trail south from Savage Park and into North Laurel.

Laurel city will receive $200,000 in construction money to build a shared-use pathway along Van Dusen Road, which is between Route 1 and Interstate 95, where it connects with the Intercounty Connector.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said: "This state funding is terrific news, and will help boost our efforts to implement our bicycle and pedestrian plans. We are committed to building a walkable, bikable healthy community, and these investments are helping get us there."

According to David Cookson, transportation planner for the county, the funding for all three county projects will be used to create detailed plans for the three pathways. He expects the plans to be completed within a year; the grant requires the design work to be done within two years of being approved.

"These are the first steps that we undertake to do these types of projects," Cookson said. "This is the stage you want to identify the major engineering issues and do something about it."

Cookson said the two Columbia projects will create pathways that leverage a large multi-use pathway being built by Howard Hughes Corp. that will connect Blandair Park and Howard County General Hospital.

The east Columbia pathway will begin at some point on the multi-use pathway in downtown Columbia and will go underneath Route 29 and Broken Land Parkway into the Steven's Forest neighborhood in Oakland Mills, Cookson said.

He said the path, which is expected to be 1.2 miles long, will give people an alternative to the pedestrian bridge that crosses over Route 29.

The west Columbia project, which connects Cedar Lane and Harpers Farm Road, will begin at the hospital and move northbound on Cedar Lane road toward the Harper's Choice Village Center, Cookson said. He added that the half-mile project will fill in gaps on the sidewalk and make the area more pedestrian friendly as well.

The North Laurel project will be 2 miles long and start at the end of the Patuxent Branch Trail in Savage Park, he said. The project will continue south and includes improvements to bike lanes and signage on existing roadways in the area, Cookson said.

Cookson said Howard submitted four projects for the program -- a proposal to improve parts of Centennial Lane was not awarded -- and that the county will likely seek additional funding from the state program or other federal programs to build the paths.

According to Christy Fang, a city engineer with Laurel's department of public works, the city's project will begin south of Olive Branch Way and connect an existing trail to a bike path that will run along Van Dusen Road to Contee Road, approximately half a mile.

Fang said the project also will be good for pedestrians because there is no sidewalk. She said the project will likely be put out for competitive bid by the end of this year or in January of next year, with construction likely beginning in late spring or early summer. She said the project could be complete by the end of 2015.

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