Saturday, February 16, 2008

Northern Parkway:Every Cloud Has a Silver Line

They say every cloud has a silver lining, that after every tragedy something good comes from it. Land on Northern Parkway west of I-83 is tragically underutilized but something good can come from it, redevelopment and a transit line; the Silver Line.

Northern Parkway was built in the earlier part of the 20th century before interstates to accommodate the automobile, the declining streetcars, and the increasingly suburban nature of north Baltimore. Today Northern Parkway is a four to six lane thoroughfare that runs east west from Belair Road to Liberty Heights Avenue. East of I-83 Northern Parkway isn't much of an issue, the neighborhoods although suburban are generally clean, relatively low crime and vacancy rates, and low poverty rates.

Now let me shift gears a little bit and talk about transit. I've spoken my opinions on the state of Baltimore's rail transit but I'm going talk right now as if everything in the Baltimore Regional Rail Plan was built already and exactly to my specifications granted hell will have frozen over and pigs will be flying but stay with me anyway. Many of the transit lines go through north Baltimore but they've got no connection within North Baltimore they all meet up Downtown. Suppose someone wants to stay in north Baltimore but wants to ride rail transit? That's where the new silver line comes in. It will allow north Baltimore region to ride rail transit without having to go Downtown if they don't want to.

The Silver line will be the only line that doesn't go Downtown but it will connect to other lines allowing for TOD and gentrification. The Silver Line will begin at Belair Road and then meet the Green Line Northern Parkway stop at Harford Road and will travel west along Northern Parkway and meet the Yellow Line at York Road and Belvedere Square. It will then meet Charles Street marking the northern terminus of the Charles St.Trolley Line. It will then meet the Blue Line at I-83 and continue west to meet the Green Line. My tweaking of the Green Line will have it meet Reisterstown Road and travel under it above Northern Parkway and then will turn westerly to run parallel to Northern Parkway and the Silver Line until it meets Wabash Avenue and the Green Line will turn south and run under Wabash Avenue which it currently runs above. After Wabash Avenue the Green and Silver Lines will no longer cross paths, Northern Parkway dead ends at Liberty Heights Avenue right after this. Now this is where things will get complicated because although Northern Parkway ends, the Silver Line still has a journey to complete. It will have a stop at Grove Park (The End of Northern Parkway) and then turn easterly to run under Liberty Heights Avenue. It will stop at Gwynn Oak Avenue at the newly redeveloped retail center that will replace Super Pride. It will continue on Liberty Heights until Garrison Boulevard where it have a stop and it will turn south and run under Garrison Boulevard. Garrison Boulevard ends at Clifton Avenue which will be a great place for a Walbrook Junction stop. It will run under Clifton Avenue for a New York Minute and then it will once again turn south and run under Hilton Parkway. The Silver Line will finally end once and for all at the red line's Rosemont. stop.

Now lets talk benefits of the Silver Line. West of I-83 Northern Parkway may eventually have a lot to offer. The road itself will be narrowed to 2 lanes in each direction with on street parking, sidewalks furniture plantings, additional lighting, and updated traffic signals. Mt. Washington basically turns it back on Northern Parkway with a thick forest separating the two. Well not anymore, new high density mixed use development with apartments, condos, and offices all with ground floor retail will replace the trees from I-83 to Reisterstown Road. Pimlico Middle, which closed last year will be torn and redeveloped in the process. Further down Northern Parkway the aging Seton Business Park will redeveloped as a high density 21st century office park. Across the street from the Seton Business Park is Grove Park and another large swath of trees. I bet you can't guess how I'd develop it huh? Well you're right another mixed use TOD development.

Once the Silver Line parts from Northern Parkway the benefits will be more limited because the neighborhoods aren't as blighted and land isn't available for development. One benefit may include better retail selections for residents like sit down restaurants and high quality grocery stores. Residents have been waiting many years for these services and haven't gotten them yet.

Now it has been said that every cloud has a silver lining but I don't think they were talking about rail transit and the development that follows. Now Here's your Silver Line.

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