BACKGROUND: After an incredibly challenging year, it feels good to have things to be hopeful about. For those of us that advocate for better opportunities for everyone in Howard County to bike and walk, we received good news in the form of the proposed FY 2022 capital budget, released last week by County Executive Calvin Ball. The proposed budget includes $5.375 million for projects that will make walking and biking in Howard County better, easier and safer. If adopted, this would represent record funding for active transportation projects in our community. We applaud County Executive Ball for his leadership and ongoing support to create safer and accessible spaces to bike, walk and access public transportation.
These projects include new and improved sidewalks, paths, pedestrian crossings and bus stops across Howard County, along with a protected bike lane pilot project along Oakland Mills Road in Columbia that would be the first of its kind in Howard County. We were especially thrilled to see funding for improved sidewalks and crosswalks along Montgomery Road in Elkridge, which we highlighted last October during our Virtual Walk Audit along with dozens of residents. The County expects to complete work on this project this year – as long as the funding for it is protected in the final budget.
Thank you to the entire Streets for All Coalition and all the community members who raised their voice and worked with us to make sure that we continue to make progress in building a more walkable, bikeable and accessible Howard County. And a big thank you to County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball for ensuring that active transportation remains a priority for our community during these trying times.
Even with this success, there is still work to do. Despite much fanfare last fall announcing important improvements, we have yet to see any groundbreaking in the Guilford neighborhood for promised intersection repairs, bus stop installation and sidewalk construction. Let’s keep up the pressure to get this done!
Next up: the budget now heads to the Howard County Council for revision and approval. We must keep up the pressure to ensure full funding for these projects remains in the final budget.
We know the county is facing tough budget decisions this year due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the importance of investing in our public health has never been clearer. This pandemic has exposed the frailties of our public health infrastructure because of historic disinvestment, while also highlighting how many of us are relying on this infrastructure more than ever for our physical and mental health. Now is the time to invest in projects that will improve our public health.
Tell the County Council to fully fund these projects to improve biking, walking and accessibility in our community!