MDOT program focuses on improving statewide trail network
By Kathy Knotts
Navigating through Annapolis by bicycle is getting easier thanks to a recent grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation.
The City of Annapolis received $224,000 from MDOT’s Kim Lamphier Bikeways Network program to design an extension and widening of the Poplar Trail.
The extension, which Mayor Gavin Buckley nicknamed the West-East Express, or “WEE”, would extend the existing Poplar Trail both east to downtown and west to Parole. Poplar Trail, a one-mile bicycle and pedestrian greenway established a generation ago on a defunct railroad right-of-way, has been the city’s most heavily used trail and currently runs from Taylor Avenue through the Germantown Homewood and Admiral Heights neighborhoods.
In 2020, the city received a $224,000 grant from the same program to design the eastern extension of the WEE, and that project is currently underway. Last year, the city council approved $442K to widen and resurface the existing Poplar Trail and add new trail markings, work that is ongoing. The new grant will allow the city to advance the western extension and enables planners to advance the schematic design and construction documentation phases of the project.
“Transportation is changing,” said Buckley. “People recognize there are other modalities—biking, scootering, ridesharing. We aren’t getting rid of the old-fashioned automobile, but when someone commutes differently, that frees up traffic for everyone else by having one fewer car out there. We all benefit when it can be done safely and that is what the WEE will deliver to our residents.”
When completed, the WEE will be the spine of the city’s bikeways network and connect the Historic District with other destinations including Annapolis Town Center, the Westfield Annapolis Mall, Anne Arundel Medical Center, and Waterworks Park.
An $80,000 Bikeways grant, announced in December 2019 for Anne Arundel County, is being used to complete the feasibility study portion of the project, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.
During the pandemic, Poplar Trail and other bicycle and pedestrian greenways got used more than ever as cooped-up residents sought ways to emerge from lockdown for a little fresh air and exercise. Governor Larry Hogan acknowledged the popularity of bicycle and pedestrian greenways in his announcement of the grant. “Over the last year and a half, more and more Marylanders have been walking, riding bikes, and using trails for transportation, recreation, and exercise. These grants, made possible through the federal and state programs, are helping us enhance quality of life and provide additional safe bike and pedestrian opportunities.”