At its next meeting, the River Hill Village Board is will discuss the creation of a committee to focus on biking-related issues. Interest in improving bikeability in the village and enhancing bike connections to the rest of Columbia and other parts of the county has risen over the last several years.
The Village of River Hill is very much a part of Columbia, with amenities like the Columbia Gym, the Ten Oaks Ballroom, the River Hill Village Center, River Hill Outdoor Pool, and over 2,300 homes. Unfortunately, the village is both physically and psychologically separated from the rest of Columbia. A glance at a map shows that River Hill is separated from the rest of Columbia by the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, the Middle Patuxent River, and W.R. Grace owned land. Currently, the only manner for a resident of River Hill to travel to the rest of Columbia, or for a worker from the rest of Columbia to travel to River Hill is via Route 32, Guilford Road, Grace Drive, or Route 108.
Until recently, the village was served by the Blue Route of the Howard Transit Bus Service. This provided an alternative transportation method to connect the residents and workers of River Hill to Harper’s Choice, Howard County General Hospital, Howard Community College, The Columbia Mall, and from there, to the rest of the region. However, several months ago, the Howard Transit Bus Service to our community was cancelled, leaving commuters with no transportation method other than driving.
In 2008, the River Hill Village Board of Directors (RHBOD) appointed a Traffic and Safety Committee (TSC) to look into making River Hill a safer community for drivers and pedestrians. The TSC worked with the Howard County Department of Public Works to create several features designed to improve safety in the Village. Amongst these features are pedestrian crossing islands, painted turn lanes, tree trimming, improved signage, and increased speed enforcement by the Howard County Police. One idea that the TSC discussed was painting bike lanes along Great Star Drive in order to “pinch” the road, thereby encouraging slower and more conscientious driving, while providing a safe location for bikers.
In mid-2010, the RHBOD initiated a Village Center Master Planning process and established a Master Planning Committee (MPC). Transportation around, through, and near the River Hill area is a focus of the committee and the ability for bikers to travel easily and safely is one aspect of this focus. Factors such as the planned widening of Route 32 west of Route 108 that will permit bikers along portions of the road, increasing stress put on the existing transportation network by workers coming to our area as a result of the base realignment at Ft. Meade, the establishment of the Cyber Command, and continued residential development to the west and in Carroll County will further impact transportation in the River Hill/Clarksville area. The parking lot adjacent to the Ten Oaks Ballroom currently serves as a park-and-ride, with MTA bus #995 taking commuters to Washington D.C. Clearly, the area around the intersection of MD 32 and MD 108 is an important transportation hub, and will continue to become more important as the region grows. Promoting the use of bikes is one way to decrease the volume of vehicles and also provides environmental and health benefits.
The RHBOD recently met with Councilperson Sigaty, CA President Nelson, representatives from the County, and members of Bicycling Advocates of Howard County to discuss ways to collaborate. The Association’s goal is to develop a system of bicycle lanes and well identified biking routes through the village to enable this alternative transportation method, create safer streets, improve connections throughout Columbia and the county, and increase the use of an environmentally sustainable mode of transportation. The Association seeks resident input and participation as we move forward. Let us know what you think by attending a Board meeting, serving on one of the Association’s committees, sending us an email at email@example.com, or by visiting http://riverhillmasterplan.blogspot.com. to review the Association’s Master Plan blog.