The City of Annapolis received a $224,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Kim Lamphier Bikeways Network program to design an extension and widening of the Poplar Trail.
The extension, which Mayor Gavin Buckley nicknamed the West-East Express, or “WEE”, would extend the existing Poplar Trail both East to Downtown and West to Parole. Poplar Trail, a one-mile bicycle and pedestrian greenway established a generation ago on a defunct railroad right-of-way, has been the City’s most heavily used trail and currently runs from Taylor Avenue through the Germantown Homewood and Admiral Heights neighborhoods.
In 2020, the City received a $224,000 grant from the same program to design the eastern extension of the WEE, and that project is currently underway. The new grant will now allow the City to advance the western extension.
“Transportation is changing,” said Mayor Buckley. “People recognize there are other modalities – biking, scootering, ridesharing. We aren’t getting rid of the old-fashioned automobile, but when someone commutes differently, that frees up traffic for everyone else by having one fewer car out there. We all benefit when it can be done safely and that is what the WEE will deliver to our residents.”
When completed, the WEE will be the spine of the City’s bikeways network and connect the Historic District with other destinations including Annapolis Town Center, the Westfield Annapolis Mall, Anne Arundel Medical Center, and Waterworks Park. A variety of communities will also gain a safe and attractive space for recreation.
In creating any new greenway, there are several steps urban planners must go through feasibility study and concept planning, schematic design, and construction documentation. The last step is construction. The grant would enable City planners to advance the schematic design and construction documentation phases of the project. As an interim step, the City recently repaved the existing Poplar Trail as part of a neighborhood repaving program, and temporary options for expanding trail access are being explored.
An $80,000 Maryland Department of Transportation Kim Lamphier Bikeways grant, announced in December 2019 to Anne Arundel County, is being used to complete the feasibility study portion of the project. The study is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.
In 2020, the City Council approved $442K to widen and resurface the existing Poplar Trail and add new trail markings. That work is ongoing.
During the pandemic, Poplar Trail and other bicycle and pedestrian greenways got used more than ever as cooped-up residents sought ways to emerge from lockdown for a little fresh air and exercise. Governor Larry Hogan acknowledged the popularity of bicycle and pedestrian greenways in his announcement of the grant: “Over the last year and a half, more and more Marylanders have been walking, riding bikes, and using trails for transportation, recreation, and exercise. These grants, made possible through the federal and state programs, are helping us enhance the quality of life and provide additional safe bike and pedestrian opportunities.”