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July 20, 2022

Regional board approves $5.1M grant for Frederick-Walkersville rail trail

Credit: The Frederick News-Post, Ryan Marshall

A nearly 2-mile trail linking Frederick and Walkersville will provide a tourism and transportation link between the two municipalities and be part of a 1,400-mile network of paths around the Washington, D.C., region.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Transportation Planning Board approved a $5.1 million grant with federal funding Wednesday to pay for construction of the Frederick and Pennsylvania Line Trail, a pedestrian and bicycle path that will link up with another trail in the city of Frederick.

The project will include a 10-foot-wide asphalt trail running 1.79 miles from Monocacy Boulevard in Frederick along the right of way for the Walkersville Southern Railroad to the Fountain Rock Nature Center near Walkersville.

Future phases of the trail will stretch to Heritage Farm Park in Walkersville.

The trail accessing a Maryland Department of Transportation park and ride lot that has parking for bicycles and Maryland Transit Administration commuter bus stop. It will also be part of the National Capital Trail Network, a 1,400-mile system of trails that will go throughout the Washington region when completed.

The Transportation Planning Board grant will cover $5.1 million of the $5.28 million cost of the project. The Maryland Department of Transportation will pay for the remainder.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, who represents the county on the Transportation Planning Board, made the motion for the grant to be approved and said she was excited to support the project. The motion was seconded by Frederick Alderman Kelly Russell, a longtime advocate of bicycle and pedestrian projects who represents the city on the board.

In a news release Wednesday, Gardner said the trail will be an important connection for people who want to safely walk or bike in and out of Frederick.

Walkersville Burgess Chad Weddle said Wednesday he was pleased by the board’s approval.

The trail will help tourism and provide a safe path for people to exercise and will be an excellent way for people to get back and forth from Frederick to Walkersville, he said.

The trail will cross both Tuscarora Creek and the Monocacy River, which is part of the reason it’s more expensive than most trail projects, said Mark Mishler, a traffic supervisor for the county.

While it might be seen as a recreational project, it could be used for commuting, as well, especially with electric bikes and higher gas prices, he said.

Construction of the trail could begin in 2023 or 2024, Mishler said.

The project will be in an area on the north side of Frederick that is growing and that has the existing railroad right of way, said John Swanson, a transportation planner with the Council of Governments.

The park and ride and the commuter bus lot also make the project attractive.

“It really just makes a whole lot of sense,” Swanson said.

He agreed that the trail will provide both recreational and commuting opportunities.

Hopefully, people who try it on the weekends for recreation will realize that they can use it for work, as well, Swanson said.

The Transportation Planning Board vote came on the same day that a federal funding bill that includes money for the East Street Rails with Trails project through the city of Frederick passed the House of Representatives, moving it one step closer to reality.

The House and Senate will develop a bill in the coming months, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Rep. David Trone.

The bill includes $4 million for the East Street Trail Liberty Road Bridge Crossing in the city of Frederick, which would be used to fund construction of a bridge over the interchange at Md. 26 and U.S. 15 and extending the trail as a shared-use path north to just past the Clemson Corner shopping center.

The bridge will be part of a trail that will stretch from the MARC station on East Street in downtown Frederick to Md. 26, meeting up with the county trail.