Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I-895: So Long!

I-895, Baltimore's oldest interstate! was never meant to be a long road according to interstate standards. It was, however a crucial connecting point for I-95 travelers for close to 30 years.
It's not secret that I-95 was built in stages, even stronger evidence of this can be seen in DC where it was supposed to cut through the city rather than joining I-495 to journey around the city.
Now back to I-895 it opened in November 1957 almost 51 years ago. It traveled from Route 1 to Route 40. It provided the first of three Harbor Crossings dubbing it the "Harbor Tunnel Throughway" and from city traffic eliminating through traffic from negotiating upwards of 50 traffic lights. It also connected to the BW Parkway ( MD 295) which was completed three years earlier in 1954. This connected Baltimore to DC without traffic lights and was labeled "Temp I-95."I-95 in Maryland's construction was staggered to say the least. This made the existence of I-895 all the more crucial. The first part of I-95 to be completed was the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway in 1963 northeast of Baltimore to the Delaware line. JFK himself dedicated this highway eight days before his November 1963 assassination. It's not surprising that this stretch of highway would bare his namesake. I-895 was extended from Route 40 to meet this newly completed stretch of I-95 as part of the project.In 1971 I-95 was completed "between the Beltways" going from I-495 to I-695. In 1973 I-895 was extended southbound to meet the this new portion of I-95. I-895 for the next 12 years would serve as I-95's entry and exit points in and out of Baltimore.
In 1977 another Harbor Crossing opened in the form of an above grade bridge as part of I-695. It was dubbed the Francis Scot Key Memorial Bridge but if you're from the area you will call it the "Key Bridge."
In 1985 I-95 as we know was completed and with came I-395 ,the nation's shortest interstate and the third and final harbor crossing the "Fort McHenry Tunnel." Other features of note include "ghost ramps" to I-70 was canceled and I-83 which was also canceled. This launched the career of Senator Barb and the gentrification of Fels Point and Canton.
This left I-895 playing second fiddle to I-95 and for me at least it raises the question of whether or not it's needed. One critical thing the completion of I-95 in Baltimore includes that I failed to mention in the previous post was the fact that there's an interchange with I-95 and I-895 at the northern end of both tunnels. I-895 continues for another five miles where it ultimately ends at you guessed it I-95. It's this little stretch that's the focus of this post.I think it's time we reexamined the validity of these five miles and whether they can be better suited serving another function. The end of I-895 needs to end at the middle intersection of I-95 just north of the Harbor Tunnel. At this point I-895 will have served its function and with the closure of this portion of I-895 this lower the price tag of the $1 Billion interchange update of the northeastern I-95/I-695 interchange, the I-95 toll lanes, and the update of the final I-95/I-895 interchange which under my plan will be dismantled.
The only real upgrades of I-895 were the extensions as I-95 was built and the little known "spur" that connects I-895 to I-97 that opened in 1993. Other than that I-895 exists exactly as it did in 1957. The tubes of the tunnel were not widened during its 1986 renovation but additional lighting and cosmetic work was done. Improvements would include an upgraded and expanded Harbor Tunnel with wider tubes to carry six lanes of traffic as would I-895 south of the tunnel. An upgraded "middle interchange" with I-95 which would be the road's new northern terminus. The I-97 spur would be eliminated having I-97 end at I-695.
The demolition of this five mile section of I-895 will reunite the neighborhoods of Greektown, Bayview, O'Donnell Heights to the neighborhoods of Canton, Highlandtown, and Brewer's Hill. It will free up land for development and encourage development of unsed land zoned for industrial use. So long I-895! and yes the double entendre is very much intended.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

MTA, CSX and Amtrak:An Underground Partnership

Kresson Maps From Google Earth
There is another source that blights Charm City that's not vacant housing, vacant lots, boarded up retail, or industrial wastelands. This source of blight is provided by something, oddly enough functions relatively well. It's at or above grade train lines. The guilty parties, as the title suggests are the MTA, Amtrak, and CSX.

With the Burial of tracks in certain areas of the city where industry has subsided and/or the tracks are for commuter rails it will free up land for TOD. Here are some examples.
The Greater Rosemont Area.KressonOrangeville25th St.
Madison Square/Johns Hopkins Biotech Park and Berea.And Wabash Avenue/Mondawmin

This post is more pictoral than oral because the pictures tell the whole story.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Edmondson Village: Master Planning at Work

Community Master Plans are tools that are used to implement change in a neighborhood that is experiencing problems. Master plans are very comprehensive while at the same time looking at issues with a microscope. Master plans in Baltimore still have a long way to go in achieving their goals. There's nothing wrong with that, after all it takes a long time to spur development interest and allocate funds to make improvements. That's what makes Edmondson Village such an anomaly.Edmondson Village is the first but far from the last Community Master Plan for Sheila Dixon to put out as Mayor. I'm writing this as a follow up to one of my very first posts nearly two years ago. It was called Edmondson Village: This Could Get Worse Before it Gets Better. In early 2007 Edmondson Village was showing signs of slipping into the same urban wasteland that encompasses its neighbors to the east. Edmondson Village is in between the blighted neighborhoods surrounding the MARC Station and the peaceful neighborhoods that are just over the City/County line. The Edmondosn Village Master Plan has taken off at a break neck speed unlike any I've ever seen. I toke ride down to Edmondson Village with my trusty camera and before I got there I drove through Forest Park through Garrison Boulevard. Forest Park has always been thought of as one of Baltimore's better neighborhoods while Edmondson Village hasn't. Garrison Boulevard is plagued with vacant and blighted housing that needs redevelopment and a decaying commercial corridor. Forest Park also has a Master Plan that's been on the books much longer than Edmondson Village's. If I had to choose which was the better neighborhood I'd have to say Edmondson Village.
Operation Orange Cone, an effort launched by the Dixon Administration to make much needed street repairs is at work in Edmondson Village's side streets which were in a state of disrepair. Exterior facades are being improved a landscaped median has been planted along Edmondson Avenue.
Edmondson Avenue is the only liability here. Everything bad perception of the neighborhood is located here.Yes there has been improvement along Edmondson Avenue but when one drives along Edmondson Avenue they don't know what's in Edmondson Village and it must reflect the neighborhood as a whole.
First lets talk the Village Center, once the ash from the fire clears and once it's rebuilt lets talk a revamp of tenants. The combination of the influx of home owners from Uplands and the Shopping Center's historical significance, a better tenant selection to make the center more of a destination than a neighborhood center it makes perfect sense especially since Edmondson Village residents have wanted better tenants in their Village Center. New tenants should include a Trader Joe's, Marshalls, a Bank, Sit down restaurants, such as Outback Steakhouse, Pizzeria Unos, a Sit down Chinese Restaurant, Gold's Gym, Barnes & Noble with a Starbucks Coffee, Friendly's and an AT&T. Next, the housing stock, I think that row homes are no longer fit in the Edmondson Avenue corridor. I think mid rise elevator condos with underground parking should replace the row houses that now dominate Edmondson Avenue.
Well, we just saw a Master Plan get off to a great start and great way to keep it going.