Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Proposed JFX Teardown: Fail

Now don't get me wrong, I am very much in favor of the proposed tear down of the JFX between Fayette and Preston Sts. In fact I'd like to see it done much sooner than 2020, which is the current time table. The plan in which they're using to execute it however is not something I can support. When demolishing and redeveloping a large piece of infrastructure, a lot of things need to considered and taken into account and in this instance, I don't think it was done.
If done right, the JFX tear down will reconnect East Baltimore to the Central Business District and the Inner Harbor, and encourage the redevelopment of Old Town Mall while highlighting the many attractions of Historic Jonestown. If done wrong, traffic on President St. will get even more congested (if that's possible.) In this post I will weigh the pros and cons of the current plan and offer suggestions to turn the cons into pros. The cons far out weigh the pros which this endeavor a FAIL.
The surface parking lots known as "Penn Fallsway" have been sitting in the middle of what's supposed to be Downtown awaiting development for what seems like eons. With the JFX in place as an interstate, it wouldn't very feasible or desirable to add large Sky Scrapers demanding high rent and/or purchase prices when Downtown is blocked by a large interstate. I am very much in favor of developing this area and since there are no residences to tear down any residential building here will be nothing but growth for the City's Population. So this is one of the many reasons tearing down the JFX will be beneficial.
Now, if you take a look at renderings of the development that will take place after the tear down, you can't help but notice the selected right of ways for noth and south bound traffic and the massive open space area in between the two. Northbound traffic will be diverted onto the Fallsway, which was the original JFX and is currently used a no outlet parallel street to the current JFX. This I like. Southbound traffic however will be diverted onto Guilford Avenue which will be re configured to meet the needs of the additional traffic.This, I'm not too crazy about. The two directions of traffic are way too divided which will result in twice as many new traffic lights than if north and southbound traffic were routed closer to each other. Also, would the massive open space between the two be used? I don't think so. Don't believe me? Just look a few blocks to the west at Preston Gardens at you will see my point.
What needs to be done is to have the Fallsway widened to support both directions which will literally cut the number of traffic lights in half. With fewer traffic lights, the number of obstacles drivers and pedestrians alike will have to endure. With the two directions of traffic now located side by side, it's time I addressed the massive open space area where the current JFX is. It's stupid get rid of it. For nearly a century, Baltimore has covered and concealed one of its greatest natural gifts; the Jones Falls.
The Jones Falls is the namesake water way the JFX covers and with its demolition, the opportunity has opened up to make the Jones Falls a treasure yet again. It's ironic because everything in Baltimore has to be "on the water" so reopening the JFX as a attractive water way "playground" and an extension of the Inner Harbor only seems natural. My Colleague Peter Tocco is a native of Indianapolis and has documented how redevelopment of a water way similar to the Jones Falls has benefited the area surrounding it.
I think the redevelopment of the Indianapolis Waterfront's success should be used as a blue print for the Jones Falls. They did a great job there. There was a rendering of what Baltimore could look like in 2010 drawn in 1985. It was a clipping from a Magazine Article that a reader of this Blog sent to me. It had a lot more water. Not only did it have the JFX re exposed but there was a second similar water way going up the Westside of Downtown around Lexington Market. This "Second Jones Falls" probably will never be a reality but the first one is a hidden reality just waiting to be realized.
Obviously the tear down of a Major Interstate will disrupt the current flow of traffic. So "bundled" into the plan should be a solution to the added traffic back up. I'm speaking of course about the Yellow Line. As part of the JFX Tear Down, the beginning stage of the Yellow Line should be included to to give an alternative to the extended President St.
The Yellow Line will start from the exising Light Rail at Camden Yards while slowly migrating (tunneled) northeast to Calvert St. just one block west of the JFX. This first phase will end at Penn Station where, for the time being, it can rejoin the Central Light Rail. This Central Light Rail "spur" will be eliminated when future phases of the Yellow Line are completed north of Penn Station.
While we're talking transit, I think the East Baltimore Spur of the Red Line I have constantly proposed will help relieve traffic congestion. People living in East Baltimore could take the Red Line Downtown instead of their cars and they can hop on the Yellow Line if they choose to go north or continue on the Red Line going west. The Green Line will help with Northeast riders and the proposed Red Line will help with the Southeast but this additional spur will help with Central East Baltimore which is poised for a Population Boom with the Hopkins Biotech Park and associated redevelopment.
Demolished Highway? Jones Falls as a Tourist Attraction? New Development on the Penn Fallsway Surface Lots? Additional Transit Lines? This adds up to one thing and one thing only; Higher Pedestrian Counts. What needs to be done with both the current and the extended President St. is to make the entire street more Pedestrian friendly from Aliceanna St. to Preston St. This means wide sidewalks, angled parking spaces, Pedestrian Crossing islands, and additional lighting. This will transform President St from a congested Boulevard to a truly integrated urban street with respect to Pedestrians, Transit Riders, Bikers, and Drivers alike.
Like I said at the beginning of the post I'm very much in favor of tearing down the JFX but it appears that several crucial aspects have been over looked which gave me no choice but to give the plan a FAIL grade. These deficiencies have been discussed and if added to implemented in the plan the FAIL grade will disappear from my radar.

No comments: