With several landmark trail networks in progress, the State of Maryland is poised to serve as a nationwide example for other states.
Marylanders are increasingly recognizing the benefits of trails for health, transportation and economic development. What's more, many communities in the “Old Line State”—whether in the I-95 corridor’s suburban and urban areas, the fields of the Eastern Shore or the mountainous Western panhandle—are developing trail master plans and investing in trail networks.
With plans in place to build thousands of miles of trails (read on below for more of these activities), Maryland could soon be leading the country in providing residents and visitors access to trails for commuting, recreation, physical activity and outdoor tourism.
Major Trail Projects Evolving in Maryland
- Marylanders can be excited and proud of the trail-building initiatives in their back yard, which include several landmark trails and bold visions for connected trail networks.
- One example is a new rail-with-trail that is being built by the City of Salisbury, in the southeast part of the state, to connect residential and downtown areas to Salisbury University.
- In the west, Allegany County is building rail-trails to connect communities to the nationally renowned Great Allegheny Passage, which spans 150 miles from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, and the 184.5-mile C&O Canal Towpath connecting Cumberland to Washington, D.C.
- Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been working with partners within our TrailNation™ portfolio to champion two major projects—the 35-mile Baltimore Greenways Trail Network, which will connect 50 of the city’s neighborhoods—as well as its major anchor institutions—by trail, and the Capital Trails Coalition, a proposed network of 800+ miles of trails connecting the D.C. metro region.
- Last but not least is RTC’s newest initiative, the Great American Rail-Trail, which will start in Washington, D.C. and traverse the western portion of Maryland before extending across the country. Learn more about the route’s 12 iconic Gateway Trails in the Winter 2019 Issue of Rails to Trails.
01/23/19 by Laura Stark
Investment from all sources—federal, state and local—is necessary to make all of these plans a reality.
Unfortunately, while local governments across the state have been increasing their investment in trail networks, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has chosen to focus its funding support on highway and transit projects like the Purple Line, while its investment in bicycle infrastructure has stagnated. But we have an opportunity to help change that—and it could help jumpstart Maryland as a trails leader.
Renewing State Support for Trails
The Maryland Bikeways program is a competitive grant program providing funds for local communities at all levels to build bicycle infrastructure.
Since the program was created in 2012, funding for it has remained stuck at around $2.5 million to $3 million per year, and MDOT has, unfortunately, allowed the funds to build up, meaning that $3.7 million will be available for projects in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget.
RTC has been working with trail champions in the Maryland General Assembly to introduce companion bills in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, HB 1281 (Lierman) and SB 787 (Rosapepe), to increase funding for the Maryland Bikeways program and provide the long overdue support needed for trails and biking infrastructure. As a whole, the bill would incrementally provide an additional $800,000 per year from FY 2021 to FY 2025 to the overall funding pot—which would total $7.7 million in FY 2025, more than double current funding.
Though this would be small in comparison to the overall demand for bicycle infrastructure and trail investment in Maryland, it would signal a step in the right direction and help ensure MDOT is contributing more to meet Maryland’s needs related to trails and safe walking and biking infrastructure.
What You Can Do to Help Move Trails Forward in Maryland
Early next month on March 5, state senators and delegates will debate the merits of the bill—and it’s important that the debate captures the current demand for trails and the funding needed to build them. Maryland residents: Please take action today and tell your Maryland state delegates and senators to pass the Maryland Bikeways Program Funding Bill! A good debate will help ensure that committee leadership puts the bills to a vote and the bills can pass on to the full chamber!