Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Friends of Bridge Columbia to hold open meeting

 It is no secret that the Village of Oakland Mills has had some challenges to its image the past few years.  Its Village Center has lost a bank and gas station.  The existing pedestrian bridge over Route 29 has been considered unsafe by many.  One group of advocates have been pushing a new bridge over Route 29 that would include both pedestrians, bikers and buses as a new way to connect Oakland Mills to Town Center.  
I received the following information from Peter Tocco the webmaster of the Friends of Bridge Columbia:
 The Friends of Bridge Columbia has a website and will hold its first open meeting on Thursday, March 29, 7-9 pm, at the Other Barn in  Oakland  Mills  Village  Center. All friends and supporters are welcome to attend, so please mark your calendar! We will be presenting the Bridge Columbia proposal in detail and a soliciting your comments and ideas.  We will also be soliciting your help in gathering support for the concept.
At the County Executive's Citizen’s Budget meeting on March 14 Mr. Ulman heard about 20 minutes of testimony supporting the Bridge from six very knowledgeable advocates, including:
  • Oakland Mills Village Board Chairwoman Abbey Hendrix
  • John Slater, longtime Columbia planner and landscape architect
  • Alex Hekimian, CA Board Member, Oakland Mills resident and former federal transportation planner
  • Jervis Dorton, former Rouse Company architectural designer and Oakland Mills resident
  • Karen Gray, Oakland Mills resident and former Oakland Mills Village board member
  • Chris Tsien, president of Bicycling Advocates of Howard County and a member of CA’s Transportation Task Force.
  • Other supporters of the Bridge submitted written testimony. 
After the testimony, Mr. Ulman shared his thoughts, indicating he is in full agreement with many of the ideas, including the poor condition of the current bridge, the iconic look of a new bridge and the walkability it would create. However, he was then undecided whether the transit aspect could be cost justified based on expected ridership and whether the Bridge could be largely funded with grant money.
After the hearing Bridge Columbia was written up in several local blogs and newspapers.  Overall, our message continues to be well received by Columbia residents. 
Mr. Ulman has until April 1 to decide whether to include $200,000 - $300,000 for engineering studies of the Bridge in his 2013 capital budget, so we need to continue making our voices heard.  We’d like to think we have a strong chance to convince Mr. Ulman to support the Bridge, particularly if enough of the citizens are behind it.
For more information, call 410-740-0256. RSVP is not necessary.


B. Santos said...

I support the idea of a new bridge, but I wonder why the bridge is so closely related to Oakland Mills. In your post, you state (generally) that Oakland Mills has an image problem, and that the bridge is part of that problem. To the best of my recollection, bridges typically have two sides, so why isn't the condition of the bridge Town Center's problem? Why not Columbia's problem? or Howard County's problem?

In addition, it is stated that the bridge would connect Oakland Mills and Town Center, but why not state that it would connect East and West Columbia?

Unless this bridge is viewed as serving a greater population, it will be hard to gain traction. If it continues to be viewed as a benefit to Oakland Mills (with the omission of it benefitting the greater community), I believe it will be difficult to rally support for any type of funding.

duanestclair said...

You raise some valid points. It would be more accurate to be described as connecting East and West Columbia in a way that the current bridge does not. The bridge that now exists has many limitations including the safety issue.