Friends of Bridge Columbia has been advocating its vision through testimony at various public hearings. Our leaders and supporters are active, vocal, and passionate about turning the vision into reality.

Testimony of Friends of Bridge Columbia

Howard County Council FY 2017 Citizen's Budget Hearing

Testimony by John Slater

December 2, 2015


Good evening, County Executive Kittleman. My name is John Slater and I am here on behalf of Friends of Bridge Columbia to urge continued funding support for Bridge Columbia—the proposed new bicycle, pedestrian and transit bridge that will connect Downtown Columbia and Oakland Mills.


We appreciate all that you have done to support the development of this project. As a next step, we propose that you:


  • Decide to construct bridge option 3B as described in the completed bridge feasibility study.

  • Support the appropriation of an additional $750,000 for planning and engineering costs. This amount was included in the capital program approved last year.

  • Include funds in the capital program in FY18 and FY19 for bridge construction.


We recognize that intergovernmental assistance from the federal and state governments is a prerequisite for this project. We are confident that grant funding will be forthcoming because:


  • Federal transportation funding is moving forward in Congress and we expect to have a long-term commitment to transportation infrastructure financing soon.

  • The bridge supports sustainability, reduces traffic and congestion in Downtown Columbia, and encourages alternate means of transportation for people without cars.

  • The bridge will leverage the private redevelopment of Oakland Mills.

  • You will continue to work for this high priority project locally, regionally and in Annapolis.


Our proposal is to plan for the grant monies by including the following in the five-year capital program:


  • $8.0 million in grant funds in both FY18 and FY19, and

  • $2.0 million in local funding in each of those years.


We will provide the details of our proposal to your staff and we pledge to work with you, your administration, and others in the community to ensure that we have a beautiful and practical iconic bridge in the heart of Columbia and Howard County.


I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Testimony of Friends of Bridge Columbia

Howard County Council FY 2016 Capital Budget Hearing

Testimony by Fred Gottemoeller

April 16, 2015


Good evening. My name is Fred Gottemoeller. I am representing the Friends of Bridge Columbia. I live at 5425 Vantage Point Road in Town Center. I’m a former resident of Oakland Mills and a bridge architect and engineer. I also have with me tonight Cathy Spain of our group who is a resident of Oakland Mills.


First of all, we would like to thank you for your resolution congratulating us for being named Volunteers of the Year by the Oakland Mills Village Board. We have been working toward the creation of Bridge Columbia for 7 years now. That recognition is very gratifying.


Here is an important point about Bridge Columbia: it is more than just an Oakland Mills project. When most people think of Bridge Columbia they picture the existing pedestrian bridge or the possible new bridge we have sketched. But “bridge“ is also a verb. “To bridge” means “to connect” separated places or separated people. To us, “Bridge Columbia” means to bring together East Columbia and West Columbia. That is one reason why the Town Center Village Board and other village boards support the project.


Pattie Laidig, the recently retired village manager for Town Center, got it. Last spring, when the county’s bridge feasibility study started, it was called the Oakland Mills Bridge study. At the first meeting of the Advisory Committee Patti insisted that the name be changed. A bridge has two ends, she said. We want our name on it, too. So, the study is now called the Downtown Columbia Bridge Study. The Harper’s Choice Village Board gets it, too. We just received a letter from them indicating their strong support.


We are glad to see that the administration is moving ahead with the project using the $530,000 balance from the 2013 appropriation. Please urge the executive to spend that money on the planning and engineering necessary to obtain Federal or state grants for construction. There is no need to spend money on cameras, lighting or paint. The cameras are already there; the important part of the lighting will be installed as part of the Blandair trail improvements; and the benefits of paint will be gone in a few years. We’re much better off now working toward a permanent solution by laying the groundwork for a successful construction grant.


We also ask you to support the $750,000 proposed for next year’s budget. We will need it then to finish the engineering so that we can start construction in 2018. If we get moving now this bridge could be dedicated and in use in four years.


You know, Bridge Columbia was a good idea when we started this project 7 years ago. It is a much better idea today. It will give Columbia and Howard County sustainable, flexible and more vibrant transportation that meets the needs of Millenials, seniors, young people and many others.

Testimony of Friends of Bridge Columbia

Re: Bike Master Plan

Testimony by Sally Ryder

January 7, 2016


Good evening Mr. Chairman and members of the Howard County Planning Board. My name is Sally Ryder and I am representing Friends of Bridge Columbia, a grassroots organization that supports a new bridge across U.S. Route 29 that will be the centerpiece of a major bike, bus, and pedestrian corridor.


We commend the County Executive and the County staff for this comprehensive Bike Master Plan. We are also excited about this week’s announcement about the development of a Complete Streets policy as well as the County’s commitment to seek a Bicycle-Friendly Community Designation.


I am here to recommend that the Bike Master Plan specifically address the need to replace the existing U.S. Route 29 pedestrian/bicycle bridge. According to the County’s 2015 Downtown Columbia Bridge Feasibility Study, this bridge is


  • Underused because of safety concerns

  • Poorly lit

  • Enclosed by an unattractive chain-link fence barrier

  • Uninviting


Pathway users agree with this assessment. We monitored the comments that were placed on the interactive map used by the County to solicit opinions about needed improvements to the bike network. We observed that at least 35 of the 500 comments received addressed the U.S. 29 bridge. Respondents said:


  • “An improved bridge will stimulate smart, sustainable economic development on both sides of 29.”

  • “There is no single better way to boost Columbia’s economic growth and community spirit than to join east and west with an enhanced bus, bike and ped bridge.”

  • “The current bridge is a major eyesore and its appearance discourages use and reflects poorly on Columbia.”


The Bike Master Plan doesn’t address the fact that the bridge is functionally obsolete by all recognized national bikeway standards. These standards call for a 14 foot width for shared use ped/bikes paths connecting closely spaced activity centers. Adding the required 1or 2 foot clearance to the sidewalls on each side, makes a total required width of 16 to 18 feet. The existing bridge is not quite 10 feet wide.


If the County is going to do something with the bridge it ought to be sufficient to really work as the connector of the longest continuous pathway network in the County at the center of the County’s largest urbanized area. We need more than mitigation strategies to improve bridge aesthetics. The bridge is arguably the most important bike facility in Howard County.


  • It is the only dedicated bicycle crossing of U.S. 29 in Columbia.

  • It is a direct commuter connection between Columbia villages and major employers Downtown.

  • It serves other Howard County communities beyond Columbia such as Allview, Dalton and Beaverbrook.

  • It is the most convenient crossing of U.S. 29 for regional trails serving Fort Meade and beyond.


With the passage of the new Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, now is the time to coalesce behind the cable-stayed, dual transit lane bridge described as Option 3B in the bridge feasibility study. Our written statement provides a rendering of this option. We must also get preliminary engineering underway so that we have the technical information needed for grant applications and get the proposed bridge project into regional and state transportation programs. Bridge Columbia will be an iconic structure that reflects Columbia and Howard County’s welcoming character and commitment to sustainable, bike-friendly living.


Thank you for this opportunity to share our views and I will provide the staff with copies of our written statement. 

Testimony of Friends of Bridge Columbia

Re: Howard County FY 2015 Budget

Testimony by Cathy Spain

December 17, 2013


My name is Catherine L. Spain. I am submitting this testimony on behalf of Friends of Bridge Columbia, a grassroots organization that supports a new pedestrian, bicycle and transit bridge across Route 29. The purpose of this testimony is to request a budget allocation in the FY 2015 budget to undertake work on a new bridge upon completion of the Oakland Mills Bridge Feasibility Study in the fall of 2014.


The County Council discussed the need for this allocation during its October 14, 2013 work session with Transportation Administrator John Powell. The goal is to ensure that the project is not further delayed after completion of the Feasibility Study.


Bridge Columbia is a bridge for people, not cars. It is a creative and visionary approach to community building. The bridge will do more than respond to a transportation need; it will improve quality of life in Columbia. It will replace a bridge that is unsafe and an eyesore. The bridge promotes livability and connectedness and enhances many aspects of the Columbia living experience. It will be a critical link and the centerpiece of the existing 98-mile pathway system.


This project has widespread community support. This fall, more than 30 residents commented on the Bike Howard website about the need for bridge improvements. Government and community leaders must view Bridge Columbia as an investment in the future of Downtown Columbia, the community of Columbia and Howard County. Building a better bridge is an act of vision that will support the new development underway in Downtown Columbia. It will help revitalize Oakland Mills. Columbia will provide a safe, convenient and quick link across Route 29 for bicyclists, walkers, and minibuses and attract more visitors and residents to Columbia.


We urge your support for this project in the FY 2015 Howard County budget. Thank you.

© 2016 by Friends of Bridge Columbia