Manhattan Beach may get a sidewalk as early as this spring to carry pedestrians and cyclists safely to Ritchie Highway and the B & A Trail.
Nothing is concrete yet, but since the Manhattan Beach Civic Association has agreed to request a rather modest half-mile black asphalt path rather than a traditional slab sidewalk, they may be able to get the project through as early as the spring.
The danger of walking along Manhattan Beach Road, a busy, narrow, winding and hilly access road, is one of several problems forming what community and business leaders have dubbed Severna Park's "Berlin Wall." The general lack of sidewalks and safe crosswalks across Ritchie Highway, together with aggravating traffic patterns, have formed asort of cultural barrier between residential east Severna Park and West Severna Park, with its shopping, parks, libraries and other services.
"We have noticed a large increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic along that stretch (of Manhattan Beach Road) since the hiker-biker trail opened," said Ray Claytor, who has been lobbying for the sidewalk on behalf of the Manhattan Beach Civic Association. "Everybody who drives along there has had a close call with a pedestrian or a bike; it's just a matter of time before someone swings across the road and has an accident."
The most serious problem is children and young teens who don't have cars but tend to gravitate across Ritchie Highway to ride on the trail and go to stores.
Kathy Kotova, who walks her dog, Tiffany, around Manhattan Beach every day, says she reluctantly allows her 13-year-old son to ride his bike over to the park,but draws the line for her 11-year-old daughter.
"I only let him go when he goes with friends, but it always makes me nervous because of the traffic. There's really nowhere to pull over where it's safe."
Manhattan Beach's proposal for a black asphalt path between the American Legion Post and Ritchie Highway along Manhattan Beach Road would cost between $16,000 and $18,000. County Councilwoman Diane Evans, R-Arnold, hopes to get the money from the county Road Operation's budget after a formal plan is completed.
Evans, who promised the sidewalk to residents during the last few weeks of her county council campaign, has been working with the civic association to push the project through the design stage.
"It's a modest proposal and a reasonable proposal. When I was down there the other Saturday,the traffic was really coming down fast on us," she said. "I could see the danger.
"This was an old cottage community and some of the residents, I think, justifiably feel they have been passed by while newer communities get all the services."