Wednesday, 15 January 2014 13:13

A privately constructed sidewalk is planned for this section of  North  Point Road. photo by John G. Bailey

County reports no projects are currently planned in Edgemere

by John G. Bailey

On Sept. 28, 1968, Sparrows Point High School student Elva Peters and a friend were walking home from a school event on Lodge Forest Drive. They were in the road — because there was no sidewalk. A passing car struck and killed Peters.
    According to a local resident, the fatality led Bethlehem Steel, which owned the land adjacent to Lodge Forest Drive and Lodge Farm Road, to build the asphalt pedestrian walkways along both roads — which still exist today.
    Uneven and treacherous to navigate, the asphalt paths have fared badly over the decades. Yet, along other roads in Edgemere without sidewalks of any kind, pedestrians must compete with vehicle traffic for paved space.
    In a survey conducted in 2004 by the North Point Peninsula Council (NPPC), Edgemere and Sparrows Point residents expressed a desire for sidewalks, among other infrastructure improvements. Results of the survey became part of the North Point Peninsula Community Plan.
    Specifically, the plan calls for sidewalks along Sparrows Point Road from North Point Road to North Point Boulevard “where none exist.” The streetscape plan for the revitalization of central Edgemere, a key part of the larger plan, also calls for sidewalks “in selected areas” along North Point Road between Delmar Avenue and Willow Avenue.
    The NPPC hoped that the plan would become part of the Baltimore County Master Plan 2020 — a blueprint for infrastructure improvement and development. While the Baltimore County Council never adopted the peninsula plan in its entirety, key aspects of streetscape plan did receive initial funding.
    Subsequently, however, the plans for Streetscape projects were suspended — but not canceled — due to an uncertain fiscal situation.
    In 2006, the county council also approved the Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan for Eastern Baltimore County, which calls for sidewalk construciton and improvement at unspecified sites.
    However, in a telephone interview with The Eagle, Dave Fidler of the Baltimore County Department of Public Works reported that no projects to build new sidewalks on North Point peninsula are currently being planned.
    Fidler also said replacement of the asphalt walkways along Lodge Forest Drive and Lodge Farm Road on land formerly owned by Bethlehem Steel will require negotiations with the state of Maryland, the current owner of the land. 
    As for sidewalks on Sparrows Point Road, a county planning department website states “the grade differential along the road presents a serious design challenge.”
    South of the area covered in the streetscape plan, Mark Sapperstein, developer of the Shaw’s Discovery housing project, has stated his intention to build a sidewalk along North Point Road from Bauers Farm Road to Willow Road, facing the development.
    NPPC president Harry Wujeck reportedly spoke to Sapperstein on the matter recently. Wujek said the developer is considering extending the proposed sidewalk north beyond Willow Road. Calls to Sapperstein for confirmation were unsuccessful.
    Local residents complain frequently about a perceived inequity in the distribution of county funding for infrastructure projects. 
    During the November NPPC meeting,  council member Gary Janiszewski pointed to “perfectly good sidewalks” that were being ripped up and replaced along York Road in Timonium, questioning the county’s claim that it lacked funding for sidewalks where none exist in Edgemere.
    In a recent e-mail to The Eagle, Eastfield-Stanbrook Civic Association president Karen Cruz compared the asphalt walkways outside Dundalk Elementary School unfavorably to the cement sidewalks adjacent to West Towson Elementary School. She offered an explanation for the apparent neglect: “We don’t have politicians that stand up for us.”
    And in an Aug. 1, 2013, article in The Eagle on Dundalk’s stormwater system, Clean Bread and Cheese Creek president John Long noted that while the county had funded upgrades in stormwater systems in Catonsville and Towson, no money was available for upgrades in Dundalk.
    Baltimore County is currently renovating the sidewalks along both sides of Wise Avenue between Lynch Road and Merritt Boulevard. The south side walkway has been upgraded and completion of the north side is expected in January.
    The sidewalks on Wise Avenue prior to the project were broken, uneven and nearly impassable. According to Tom Hargis of the Baltimore County Bureau of Highways, the project was initiated to comply with the American with Disabilities Act.