Saturday, October 18, 2014 will be remembered as a huge day for pedestrians and bicyclists in west Baltimore City & County. Dare we call it victory? On that day, in front of 30 guests including Maryland state Delegates Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (candidate for Senate, MD 44) and Sandy Rosenberg (MD 41), Councilman Tom Quirk (County Dist. 1), and Pat Young (candidate for Delegate, MD 44B), Tom Hannon, Lead Engineer for the Baltimore Red Line, acknowledged that the Red Line’s plan for accommodating pedestrians and bicyclists did not meet the community’s demand and their own stated goal of a “direct connection between the station and the Gwynns Falls Trail.” Mr. Hannon confessed that sometimes, “we don’t get it right.” He further stated that through the persistence of the community and their refusal to take no for an answer, the Red Line has agreed to meet with the community, the State Highway Administration and other Maryland DOT officials to seriously consider the I-70 Trail Connector’s proposal to use the existing I-70 Security Blvd overpass bridge as the “direct connector” between the Red Line’s I-70 station on the west side of Security Blvd and the trail on the east side of Security Blvd.
The recommendation of the I-70 Trail Connectors includes several possibilities: keep a large section of the existing I-70 bridge over Security Boulevard and convert it to a hiking and biking bridge large enough to accommodate an elevated park or community commons over Security Boulevard; keep enough of the existing bridge for pedestrians and cyclists once the larger structure is torn down; or use existing bridge abutments for placement of a lightweight, pre-fabricated bridge specifically designed for pedestrians and cyclists. The beauty of the I-70 Trail Connector’s proposals are not simply that they provide a convenient and comfortable way to cross Security Boulevard, but that they offer the only safe way to cross this busy state road.
In addition to the elected officials, guests included Joy Goodie, Heide Grundmann, Greg Hinchliffe, and John MacDonald of the I-70 Trail Connectors. Chris Merriam, founder of Bikemore was there. Bikemore has recently brought citizen bike advocacy to Baltimore County and the I-70 Trail Connection is its first action in the County. Members of Catonsville Rails to Trails were there because they understand the importance of quality hiking and biking infrastructure and the significance of the bridge over Security Boulevard as part of the emerging, interconnected westside trail and bicycle network. Klaus Philipsen, urban planner and Red Line consulting architect rode his bike there from his home a few miles away. Parents brought children on bikes to support the efforts of the I-70 Trail Connectors and there was even a young mother with a child in a stroller who carried a sign that read, “I Don’t Want to Cross Security Boulevard in my Stroller.” Numerous residents of surrounding communities were also in attendance.
This is a story of community action, tenacity, and pushing engineers and planners to see a solution that is right there, before their eyes. As the I-70 Trail Connectors say about the safe, bridge crossing of Security Boulevard, “Its already there!” and the comment from many of those who visit the location, “It’s a no-brainer!”