Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman convened a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, June 23, regarding the future of the pedestrian bridge spanning Route 29, which links Columbia’s Town Center to the Village of Oakland Mills.

Current plans are to invest $500,000 from The Howard Hughes Corp. and $100,000 from the county to enhance the bridge through better lighting, landscaping, safety improvements and other aesthetic upgrades. The current bridge is aging and in need of repair.

An independent group called Bridge Columbia has ambitious aspirations for the bridge. Its members hope to have a new bridge built that would accommodate electric buses linking the two villages, in addition to allowing for pedestrian and bike traffic.

“This is a worthwhile project. There is no doubt an improved bridge would be beneficial to Oakland Mills, Town Center and the rest of Columbia,” said Kittleman. “The question is the scope of the project. A new bridge would cost millions, and the county simply is not in the position to fund this [project] without significant financial support from both federal and state transportation agencies.”

Kittleman has organized the roundtable to bring together named stakeholders, including residents, community leaders, private enterprise and representatives from federal, state and county government, to explore options and determine whether state and federal funding is available.

In addition to Bridge Columbia’s vision of a bridge supporting electric buses, other options have been proposed for this location, including a new interchange with a bridge crossing Route 29 and a partial interchange on the Town Center side. These options would allow for vehicular traffic.

“There are a variety of opinions regarding how to best approach this and how to fund it,” Kittleman said. “We’d like to sit down and explore the possibilities.”