On Wednesday, the Howard County Council approved the FY 2021 capital budget with amendments. In total, $3.8 million in new funding was approved for bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects including the publication of a complete streets design manual and improvements for ADA ramps. Additionally, $1.5 million was funded for road resurfacing, which will result in additional bike lanes. Today, our Streets for All Coalition released a statement in response.
“Last week, we learned of a budget amendment introduced by Councilmembers Jung, Walsh and Yungmann that proposed to cut nearly $4.5 million in funding for projects to improve bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Though some funding was restored in the budget process, we expected a greater county investment for bike and pedestrian infrastructure for the FY 2021 budget season.
This pandemic has underscored the need for safe and accessible sidewalks, bike lanes, paths and crosswalks as many of us are relying on them now more than ever for physical activity, a mental reprieve from isolation and for essential workers to get to their jobs. Now more than ever, we call on the Department of Public works to prioritize and complete projects in neighborhoods that desperately need safety upgrades, connected sidewalks, crosswalks and accessible bus landing pads. Efforts to complete budgeted and funded projects on time must be prioritized in the coming weeks and months.
We understand the economic impact of COVID-19 upended all of our expectations for the coming year. However, these projects in the capital budget are longer-term investments – typically paid for through bonds, which take years to come due – as opposed to the operating budget that is much more dependent on current tax revenue. Undoubtedly, these cuts to bike and pedestrian infrastructure will negatively impact the ability of our residents to safely and easily move about, especially for communities in Howard County that need it the most.
While our advocacy resulted in some bright spots in this process, particularly in restoring funding for the complete streets design manual and ADA ramp installation that will make it easier for people with disabilities to get around safely, our work as a coalition is needed more than ever. We thank all of the members of our community who raised their voice in support of a more walkable, bikeable and wheelchair-friendly community. Our coalition will continue to advocate and hold our leaders accountable to make Howard County a healthier and more connected community for all of us.”