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4.4-mile stretch of BWI Trail opens for bikers, hikers


The first phase of a $9.3 million, 14.5-mile recreation trail that eventually will allow hikers and bikers to go from Annapolis to Linthicum and Patapsco Valley State Park opened yesterday.

The 4.4-mile stretch of the BWI Trail, which was started two years ago, opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Benson-Hammond House on Route 170 and a series of activities along the paved path.

The new trail goes from the northern end of the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail at Dorsey Road and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard through Sawmill Creek Park, across Stewart Avenue and up Aviation Boulevard to the Benson-Hammond House. From there the trail goes past the new Andover Middle School and on to the Linthicum light rail station.

"If you want to walk to the store or to the light rail station to get to work, you can easily do it by using the trail," said Valerie Burnette Edgar, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration.

The trail is open from dawn to dusk.

Nearby residents began using sections of the trail as they were paved in April and May.

"The trail adds an element of safety to the community by allowing bikers and walkers to ride in a more scenic area, away from the traffic of the roads," said Terry Hart, 56, of Linthicum. Mr. Hart says he rides about three miles along the trail about three times a week.

The BWI Trail is the first project in the county under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. The act provides funds for pedestrian or bicycle trails, landscaping beautification and historic preservation, Ms. Edgar said. The money also can be used to convert old railroad rights of way into hiker-biker trails and for archaeological projects.

Ms. Edgar said the act provided $600,000 of the $1.4 million needed to build the first section of the trail. The state Department of Transportation paid the remaining $800,000. The

act will cover all seven phases of the BWI trail project. The costs for each phase have not been determined, Ms. Edgar said.

The second phase, 1.3 miles long, will go west from Stewart Avenue to the Aircraft Viewing Area on Dorsey Road. Ms. Edgar said contractors will start bidding on the $2 million construction job in August. Work will be finished by the end of the year, she said.

The third phase will run parallel to Dorsey Road before turning north onto Aviation Boulevard and ending at the BWI MARC/Amtrak station.

The fourth phase will continue along Aviation Boulevard to Elm Road, and the fifth phase will run along Elm Road to the airport terminal. The sixth phase will go from Aviation Boulevard and Elm Road to Camp Meade Road, where it will connect with the first section.

The final segment will loop off phase three at Stoney Run Road and into Patapsco Valley State Park.

"Our main goal is to do something for the community that surrounds the airport," said state Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer. "It won't make the planes any less noisy, but it will give community members a recreational tool."

He said the project will be completed within a few years.

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