Existing Pedestrian Bridge
Connecting East and West Columbia across Route 29 is an important goal, but the existing bridge is not helping to achieve it.
The existing footbridge is:
an unsightly caged structure
unwelcoming and intimidating
unsafe, especially at night
"There is no question that the existing footbridge... is unattractive, underutilized, and perceived as unsafe by many. Our constituents have made it clear to us that it does not meet the needs or suit the character of the community."
-- Feb. 2012 letter from Dr. Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa, Howard County Council members
The existing bridge is covered by an unsightly, rusted chain-link cage
In February of 2015, Howard County released a Feasibility Study for a new bridge performed by URS Corporation. As part of report, URS studied the condition of the current bridge and found several key problems with the existing bridge that would be addressed by Bridge Columbia's vision of a new bridge:
"Currently, the bridge has a 10-foot inside clear width... the existing bridge would be able to support loads due to transit vehicles, however, the ease of use and comfort level of occupants is low due to the relatively inside clearance"
"The existing bridge could be expanded to a 12-foot inside clear width, however, the additional space would not change the conflict between pedestrians/bicyclists and transit vehicles."
"The short distance between the exterior of a transit vehicle can... be considered a significant risk factor if passengers put their hands or other objects out the transit vehicle windows."
"The areas of understory growth have limited sightlines for trail users and pose safety comfort level issues for many trail users, especially at night... there is no trail lighting"
"Local planning documents support the desire for improved transportation connections to and from Downtown Columbia... An improved bridge connection between Downtown Columbia and Oakland Mills is integral and consistent with the community vision... Given the commercial activities expected from the Downtown Columbia Plan, encouraging walking and biking from Oakland Mills and east Columbia has the potential to spur redevelopment on the Oakland Mills side."
"The proposed design provides an iconic gateway feature for Columbia that would be visible to northbound and southbound motorists for a substantial distance. It would satisfy stakeholder interest in provision of a safe and more aesthetically pleasing structure for all users."
-- excerpts from Howard County Downtown Columbia Bridge Feasibility Study
Parts of the existing bridge and connector paths are overgrown with vegetation creating safety concerns due to deep shade and obscured lines of sight