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Towson Bike Beltway to double in size

The Towson Bike Beltway will more than double in size after grant money was awarded earlier this week through the Maryland Bikeways Program, Gov. Martin O'Malley's office announced.

The five extensions to the Towson loop will add bike lanes, road painting and roadside signage to 4.5 miles more of Towson roads to the initial 4.2 mile loop currently under construction. The Towson Belt Bikeway was among the 23 projects awarded grants on Thursday.

"We're very happy with the awards...and we believe it's starting to build a bike infrastructure and the routes that will make Baltimore County a great bicycling community," Jeff Mayhew, deputy director for community coordination of the county Department of Planning, said.

In addition to $90,000 for the second phase of the Towson Bike Beltway, the Maryland Bikeways Program also granted Baltimore County $126,000 for a biking trail between Ebenezer Road and Silver Hall Road in Perry Hall; $60,000 for signage and bike lanes connecting to the Baltimore City bike network; and $79,600 for bike lanes, and signs around the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus.

The second belt bikeway project in Towson, which will be supplemented by a 20-percent county match. The 5th District Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, a group of 5th District citizens formed by Councilman David Marks, drew up the plans for the beltway and surrounding networks, and submitted the initial plans to the state in May 2012.

In July 2012, the Maryland Bikeways Program granted an initial $100,000 for the project, which was scheduled to be completed this year but has been delayed because of "procurement issues," Marks said.

"They're still committed to doing the project, it just hasn't happened as fast as we thought," Marks said.

The first 4.2-mile phase of the project comprises a loop that extends east to the Towson Place shopping center, north and west on Goucher Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue, south down Bosley Avenue, and east back to Towson Place on Towsontown Boulevard and Hillen Road.

The second 4.5-mile phase will include "spurs" both within and outside the loop, Mayhew said.

Extensions include the stretch of Fairmount Avenue between Hillen Road and Goucher Boulevard, Providence Road and Cromwell Bridge Road east to Loch Raven High School, Putty Hill Avenue between Goucher Boulevard and Loch Raven Boulevard, Burke Avenue between Towsontown Boulevard and Hillen Road, and Kenilworth Drive between Charles Street and Bosley Avenue.

"To build a modern transportation system that supports all Marylanders, we must seek a balanced approach and invest in alternative forms of travel like bicycling," O'Malley said in a statement. "These grants will help local jurisdictions enhance their bicycle networks, which encourage healthy lifestyles and play a role in improving our air quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change in Maryland."

The need for bicycle accessibility and parking has been the subject of a continuing dialogue in Towson over the past year.

"With the expected growth in Downtown Towson, we need to do whatever we can to improve mobility," Marks said in a statement. "Bike lanes and bike parking requirements for new construction are absolutely essential."

Marks introduced legislation in June that mandates bike parking for new developments in Towson. Under the terms of the bill, new developments are required to provide 4-percent of the off-street parking spaces required for cars for bicycle parking. The bill was passed on July 1.

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