By Matthew Liptak
It’s “huge,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. It’s “fantastic,” said Jon Korin, president of Bicycle Advocates for Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.
Local officials were praising the latest step in connecting a recreational trail from Anne Arundel County to Prince George’s County. Work now begins on the construction of the WB&A Trail Bridge spanning the Patuxent River in Odenton.
“It was very, very exciting,” said Korin, who was at the groundbreaking last week. “Pedestrians, cyclists and runners from both sides of the river were celebrating this. We were waiting so long. Design was completed a couple years ago.”
The 550-foot bridge will not only connect the WB&A to trails in Anne Arundel and Prince George’s County, but is the “missing link”, according to the Anne Arundel County Department of Parks and Recreation, for regional trails. The WB&A Trail is considered a component of the larger East Coast Greenway, the 911 Memorial Trail and the American Discovery Trail.
A representative from the East Coast Greenway trail, Daniel Paschall, who lives in Philadelphia, even came down to the event to celebrate the groundbreaking. “He took the train to Odenton with his folding bike and rode to the site,” Korin said.
The $6.75 million bridge project is expected to be completed next year. According to Anne Arundel County’s Department of Parks and Recreation, it is largely funded by a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant.
Although the potential for pedal-powered travel and adventure is expanding, much of the county’s focus has also been to change the daily commute in light of climate change.
“I’m convinced that trail use will grow as we build these connections, both for fun and to get where people need to be, ” Pittman wrote in an email. “We think of trails as a place for recreation and exercise, but our county’s transportation plan, Move Anne Arundel, calls for a connected network designed to be used for transportation as well, and we know that much of our traffic crosses county lines. The Patuxent crossing is an essential connection for the WB&A Trail, connecting our network to Prince George’s and D.C. That’s huge for us.”
Korin agrees an integrated trail network means more cyclists, runners and pedestrians can get to work, reducing carbon emissions from vehicles and easing congested roads. “As we make these connections more and more, we’ll be able to commute to Bowie State, to Fort Meade, ” he said. “The more we use these connections, the more people will stop using their cars and use bikes—whether it’s getting food, going to doctors appointments, or to work.”