A proposed Towson "bike beltway" was among 28 projects awarded grants on Tuesday from a Maryland Department of Transportation cycling initiative.
The $100,000 grant will go towards .
"These grants will help local jurisdictions build key connections that make bicycling a true transportation option," Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement announcing Tuesday's grants. "Bicycling is a win-win for all of us by helping us learn to enjoy more of Maryland’s natural treasures, reducing the impact on the land, improving our fitness and well-being, and enhancing our quality of life.”
Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, a transportation consultant and former MDOT staffer, said he was "thrilled" to hear of the grant approval.
"We have a lot of congestion in Towson," Marks said. "It's difficult to add highway capacity, so we have to do whatever we can to maximize the use of the current road network and that is what this is doing."
Marks said construction on the bike beltway could begin by this fall, as the county works on restriping roads. The route will include separate bike lanes where possible, or signage reminding drivers to share the road where the streets aren't wide enough for a separate lane.
The grants were issued under Maryland Bikeways Program, part of the Cycle Maryland initiative established last year, to promote planning and construction of cycling infrastructure. Including Tuesday's announcement, the program has issued $5.63 million in grants in 2012.
The county received a second $100,000 grant on Tuesday, for the design of a bike trail in Catonsville.
Baltimore County applied for the Towson grant in May, following the work of the Fifth District Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee.
"It was about a year-long process," said committee co-chair Stu Sirota of Rodgers Forge. "We had started with the Baltimore County bicycle and pedestrian plan as our guide and tried to pick the low-hanging fruit from that, and we feel it was the best opportunity to get something going quickly that we could eventually build on."
The bike beltway plan includes proposed spurs that could one day reach , and other landmarks outside Towson's core.
Several institutions, and , had spoken up in favor of the grant.
"We see this bike beltway as a first phase of cycling infrastructure in the Towson area and we're hopeful that once it's built that there will be additional phases that will help expand the network outward," Sirota said. "Our committee has additional concepts and ideas for how to make that happen, and we look forward to working with Baltimore County on that."