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Costs stall plan to make Arbutus Library more walkable

Every time Arbutus Middle School Principal Michelle Feeney visits Arbutus Library, she sees one of her 734 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students, she said.

A little more than a half mile separates the school on Shelbourne Road from Arbutus Library, but students must catch a ride to get the library on Sulphur Spring Road.

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Walking from the school to the library is treacherous as most of the trek would be on the shoulder of the road.

"There's nowhere to walk. It's unsafe," said Feeney, who conducted an informal poll and found 131 students use the Arbutus Library each week. "Now that we have a building for the community, it has to be accessible by the community."

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Those sidewalks are on the wish list of Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the 1st District, which includes Arbutus.

But the first-term councilman said he doesn't expect construction crews to start work any time soon.

"It's a question of finding the money," said Quirk, who entered office after construction of the library, senior center and recreation center were completed. "Right now, the budget's under tremendous pressure and nobody has any desire to raise taxes."

County spokesman Don Mohler said adding sidewalks to the .6-mile stretch from the complex that includes the library, senior center and rec center off Sulphur Spring Road to Dolores Avenue is one of the projects under review in the capital budget process.

The uncertain economic times prevented Quirk from giving a time frame for when the project could start.

"Unfortunately, the capital budget was cut and a lot of projects that are already in the system might be extended, as far as time frames," Quirk said. "(There's) a strong desire among the County Council and County Executive (Kevin Kamenetz) to hold prices stable."

While sidewalks cost about $4.25 per linear foot and curbs and gutters cost $17 per linear foot, much of the project's expense would come from design, excavating the land and installing a storm water management system, Mohler said.

In addition to those expenses, the price of the project would likely increase because of the curves and inclines along the route, Quirk said.

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"It'd probably be one of the most expensive sidewalks to be built, once it's built, because of the topography," Quirk said, noting a lack of shoulders on the road, telephone poles and hilly terrain. "It's definitely a priority once money starts to come back in the system."

Mohler noted that the development review process for the library, senior center and recreation center determined that the county should "strive to put sidewalks in three areas around the center."

Baltimore County, he noted, has already completed two of those projects by installing sidewalks on the north side of Elm Road and on the corner of Selford and Sulphur Spring roads.

Bob Hughes, a Baltimore County library spokesman, said that the library has no official position about the sidewalks.

"The library is not part of that conversation," Hughes said. "We wouldn't be involved in the funding."

Despite a lack of pedestrian access along Sulphur Spring Road, Hughes wrote in an email that the library drew 302,807 people from July to January, an increase of 29 percent over the same period last year.

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"The people of Arbutus truly love their library, and we will continue doing everything possible to meet their needs and earn their trust," Hughes wrote.


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