Can light rail and bike trail co-exist? Mass transit: Glen Burnie extension should parallel B&A path, with future in mind.

November 25, 1996

CHOOSING THE alignment for the extension of the Central Light Rail Line into Glen Burnie will be no easy task. As a recent environmental impact report indicates, any of the five proposed routes pose drawbacks.

The task for the state Mass Transit Administration, Anne Arundel County officials and residents is to focus on the criteria that results in the most sensible and affordable alignment of this line, which is also branching out to Hunt Valley in northern Baltimore County and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Clearly, the most direct and least expensive choices are those that follow the Baltimore-Annapolis hiker-biker trail. That would bring the trolleys into the heart of Glen Burnie's business district, the optimum location for a station.

Other alignments are more expensive and require the demolition of houses and businesses. One option, favored by the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, would make a lengthy loop around town, doubling the cost and adding unnecessary length to what should be a short jaunt between Cromwell Station and Glen Burnie.

The irony of this debate is that the MTA would like to reclaim for rail use the B&A trail, which was developed in the first place because the public figured rail travel was history. The path has become quite popular with bikers, walkers and others in the past several years. Like many urban greenways, it was built on the abandoned rail bed. This one once belonged to the Baltimore-Annapolis Railroad. Now that the recreational value of the trail is established, its fans don't want to relinquish it for a mass transit right-of-way.

Perhaps it is possible to accommodate both light rail and the bike trail. A well-designed buffer of trees and vegetation could protect the experience of riding or hiking on the bikeway near the rail line.

Potential future expansion must also be weighed. If light rail is ever extended south toward the population centers in Severna Park or Annapolis, is it better to have the rail bed in the median of busy Ritchie Highway or along the B&A Trail? Judging from the study on this short extension, using the trail for future light rail extensions in Anne Arundel seems the easiest and least expensive route.

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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