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A New Bridge For Columbia? One Group Hopes So

Do you think the U.S. 29 bridge needs to be overhauled?

A group of residents is advocating for a new bridge to replace what its members say is the unsafe 28-year-old structure extending over U.S. 29 between the Town Center and Oakland Mills villages.

Bridge Columbia, which recently launched a website documenting its efforts, wants the current pedestrian bridge over U.S. 29 to be replaced with one wide and open enough to accommodate buses, pedestrians and cyclists. The group also has a Facebook page.

The bridge would connect the east and west sides of Columbia, linking , and the Town Center to the Oakland Mills Village Center and Blandair Park, advocates say.

The group’s website said the current bridge looks unsafe and its enclosed design makes walkers feel trapped.

“We keep beating the drum about this,” said one of the group’s founders, Dave Bittner. “This is something that would be great for our community. The bridge we have now is not good for our community; it’s ugly, unsafe.”

“The idea is [creating] an architecturally significant-- a beautiful iconic structure that befits our community,” he added.

Bittner, with his wife, Ilana, run a media production company as well as the Howard County-focused mobile journalism site HoCoMoJo.

Group members estimate the bridge would cost $15-$20 million, money that would come from Howard County, the State Highway Administration and federal sources, Bittner said.

Columbia resident Fred Gottemoeller, a bridge architect, and landscape architect John Slater are also in the group, according to a press release. Core members also include Bob Bartolo, a retired real estate developer, Karen Gray, a former Oakland Mills village board member, and former Rouse employee Peter Tocco.

At this point, group members are looking for “some leadership from the county” to champion the project, Bittner said.

Board Chair Michael Cornell wrote a letter to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman in November 2011 urging the county to undertake a feasibility study on the bridge.

Howard County officials didn't immediately respond Wednesday to inquiries about their position on the concept

The idea of Bridge Columbia has generated recent buzz locally, although it’s been discussed for years.

Columbia teacher and blogger—and Oakland Mills resident Julia McCready-- included the bridge in a regarding her Christmas wishes for Columbia.

And, in November 2009, retired planner Philip Engelke had this to say about the current graffiti-scrawled bridge in the Baltimore Sun:

"It looks a little like Guantanamo Bay," he told the paper.

Do you think Columbia needs a new Route 29 bridge? Tell us in our poll or in comments.

Matt M January 12, 2012 at 03:36 PM
They want buses to use the bridge? How about Little Patuxent Parkway? or Broken Land Parkway? Is the bridge actually unsafe or do people just use their feelings to determine that it's unsafe (if it is unsafe it should be replaced, of course)? Isn't it enclosed because it crosses a major highway and there is a desire to not have people throwing things down to the highway? This seems, like many things, to be whiners whining about something trivial.
cathy eshmont January 13, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I'm troubled that 'looks unsafe' and is 'ugly' is being used as the reason to spend a lot of money when verified problems are unresolved. We have a lot of citizens in this county who can't count on their electrical service, arguably a 21st century right in a 1st world country, and I question installing artificial turf at high schools and replacing bridges with no science behind the need for their replacement as 'nice to have' after all the necessities have been addressed.
Diane Butler January 14, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I agree with Cathy. Reliable electricity for the older neighborhoods in Howard County (that were here before Columbia and do not have buried wires) should come before the walking bridge aeshthetics or the "turf" for high school fields. When are we going to start prioritizing the difference between "needs" that are government funded and "wants" that should be privately funded. My tax are already too high.
Shari Orszula January 15, 2012 at 02:31 PM
I agree with Cathy and Diane. While a new bridge over 29 would be nice to have, it's important that the Howard County resident taxpayers at least have access to the most basic necessities - including electricity/heat. For anyone who has experienced a sustained power outage in the dead of winter, you know how cold your house can get. For those of you who have not experienced this, count your lucky stars - it's a miserable experience.

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