Monday, September 29, 2014

Revisiting Old Freeway Attempts III:The Outer Beltway

As I end my series on revisiting old Freeway Attempts, I focus this entire post on just one proposed road; The Outer Beltway. Yes, believe it or not I-695 was only supposed to be the "Inner Beltway" with another loop that catches more outer ring suburbs to follow. Obviously the Outer Beltway was never completed in fact it was barely started. The only part of the Outer Beltway that exists today is Route 100 which is the southern spur of the un-built Interstate. I bet you didn't know that. Then of course if you look at a map you can see that in fact Route 100 does serve as an "outer" alternative to the current Beltway at least in the southern suburbs.

When Route 100 was built in phases starting in the 1970s until its completion in 1999, it was never meant to be an entire loop. In fact, the reason that Route 100 is located where it is is because the land had been reserved for the Outer Beltway and all the State wanted to build was a highway link between Route 29 in Ellicott City and Mountain Road in Pasadena to ease congestion in rapidly growing areas of Howard and Anne Arundel Counties. Route 100 did just that except that it opened the floodgates for more growth and sprawl which put congestion of roads back to where it was before Route 100 and then some. Given that Route 100 follows the southern right of way set aside for the Outer Beltway, hows about we extend it in both directions to complete the loop and give Baltimore two Beltways just the Eisenhower Era Interstate Planners had intended. 

The moniker of Route 100 will be dropped in place of the more fitting I-595. I realize this is the unsigned name of a stretch of Route 301/50 but I think our new Outer Beltway is more deserving of this noble title. We will start our journey at the eastern end of Route 100(now known as I-595) in Pasadena. Route 100/I-595 ends at Mountain Road currently but it will be extended as I-595 east of Mountain Road which will have a grade separated interchange as will all of its crossings. It will continue eastbound before crossing the bay between Bodkin Creek and Boyd Pond. This long bridge will do something unheard of; connect Pasadena in Anne Arundel County and Joppatowne in Harford County.  

This bridge, which gives all other bridges a run for their money, will end at Canal Creek in just south of Joppatowne. Extending Eastern Avenue to meet I-595 should be considered. There is some relatively unused land here which I-595 can use for interchanges with Route 40 (Pulaski Highway), Philadelphia Road, and I-95. It may be a good idea for I-95 and Philadelphia Road to share ramps to one another a la Park Heights Avenue and Stevenson Road given how closely parallel the roads run in between each other. After its interchange with I-95, I-595 will meet up with Route 1 (Belair Road) in between Perry Hall and Kingsville. After unceremonious interchanges with Harford Road, Glen Arm Road, and Manor Road, I-595 will cross Loch Raven Reservoir. After this, things begin to get interesting.

In Central and western Baltimore County, there are a few roads that already exist that I've noticed could be spurs for the Outer Beltway. After an interchange with Route 146 (Dulaney Valley Road) I-595 will follow what is now Old Bosley Road albeit much wider and up to Interstate Standards after which it will roughly follow Bosley Road and finally Warren Road. Warren Road was one of the Roads I had considered to be a spur for the Outer Beltway therefore I'm using it as such. Given the Residential nature of these Neighborhoods, there will be no interchanges until meeting Route 45 (York Road) The existing at-grade intersection will be upgraded to a clover leaf and Warren Road, currently a two to four lane road separated by a median strip will become I-595, a six lane divided Interstate. 

West of York Road I-595, the continue to follow the Warren Road Route. Here, it will be much easier to transform the road as it has more of a highway-esque layout. Warren Road ends with an interchange with I-83. I-595 will continue on west of I-83. It will meet Route 25 (Falls Road) and take the path of least resistance through the Greenspring Valley with interchanges at Greenpsring Avenue and Park Heights Avenue just below the Caves Valley Country Club.

I have setup I-595 to be level with Owings Mills Boulevard right where it veers north and follows the CSX lines. Why? Because I believe Owings Mills Boulevard between Winans Road and Stevenson University is the other "spur" of the Outer Beltway is. Owings Mills Boulevard has an interchange with I-795 here and its intersections with Reisterstown Road, Red Run Boulevard, Lakeside, Boulevard, Lyons Mill Road, and Winans Road will be upgraded to grade separated interchanges. Other smaller streets that meet up with Owings Mills Boulevard/I-595 will have bridges over or under them without access. The planned extension of Owings Mills Boulevard to Liberty Road will also be a grade separated interchange. 

Once I-595 has crossed Liberty Road, it will take curvy path of least resistance. That simply means that it will curve around to ensure the fewest number of homes have to be destroyed to construct it. Eventually it will cross into Howard County and will cross Route 99 at its current signalized intersection with Route 29. Route 29 between Route 100 and its northern terminus at Route 99 has served as a southwestern spur of the Outer Beltway (I-595) Route 29 between Route 99 and Route 100 will be re-dubbed I-595 and the traffic light intersection at Route 99 will be upgraded to a grade separated interchange. I-595, once it has completed its short stint using the current Route 29 will make an easterly turn back to the current Route 100. At this point the circle is complete.

Now that I have completed my entire series on un-built Freeways in Baltimore I bet I know what you're thinking; That was stupid. Yes, yes it was however we must revisit these failed attempts now and then to remind ourselves why they failed in the first place so history isn't doomed to repeat itself. Building anyone of these Freeways would be a waste of Tax Payer Money, have to unnecessarily relocate hundreds if not thousands, will ruin sought after park lands, will pollute the air as well as the water, and will do nothing to actually reduce roadway congestion.

By researching and writing this series, I was reminded time and time again that if Baltimore wants reduce congestion on its highways it needs to look in the future not the past. This series looked in the past and showed how detrimental it would be. Rather than investing in expanding our highways, Baltimore and surrounding areas must look at upgrading Mass Transit in particularly Rail Transit and shuttle buses that go to and from Rail Transit stops. Park & Ride lots at the end of transit lines are a must as is TOD so that Residents can get rid of their cars. The successful Cities in the Country have world class transit systems and if Baltimore wants to become one, it must get one of its own NOT build more highways.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Revisiting Old Freeway Attempts Part II: The I-695 Connections

Think I was done with the Old Freeway Attempts Series? Think again. This time the proposed freeways I'm writing about would have crossed I-695 in some way shape or form. This post will also cover why the east side of I-695 is not a perfect circle and is filled with many sharp twists and turns. The I-695 we all know and love today was pieced together by two failed freeway attempts on its east side.  

The first freeway I'm introducing is I-795 aka the Northwest Expressway. The Northwest Expressway was built in the 1980s in conjunction with the Subway Line that runs parallel to it. It also contains a direct exit ramp to Owings Mills Mall which has failed miserably. There are plans to extend the expressway northbound into Carroll County in the future as traffic along Reisterstown Road and Liberty Road continues to increase as well as plans in the foreseeable future to build an interchange at Dolfield Boulevard. 

I-795's southbound terminus is at I-695. It wasn't supposed to be. Had the planners of I-795 had their way, it would have continued southbound cutting the Sudbrook and Lochearn communities in half before entering the City and ending is status of a Freeway at Wabash Avenue. Wabash Avenue runs through northwest Baltimore City as an at-grade Boulevard parallel to the Subway tracks just like I-795. The Subway tracks that run through Sudbrook and Lochearn tell us the exact alignment of the would be I-795 link. Although this may have provided traffic relief to Liberty Road and Reisterstown Road inside I-695, I don't see how disrupting the communities of Sudbrook and Lochearn is a good enough trade off.

Next we come to the Perring Freeway, hey wait a minute! Isn't there a Perring Parkway already in existence? Why yes there is. The Perring Freeway would have followed the same right of way as the current Perring Parkway does however it wouldn't have traffic lights and would have contained grade-separated interchanges like what can be found at Northern Parkway and Perring Parkway. Very little can information can be found on the Perring Freeway such as how long it would have been a freeway (perhaps when it corsses the Alameda?) or if it would continue as a freeway above I-695 (too densely developed to do so now.) 

My guess is that land was bought for interchanges for the Perring Freeway but funding wasn't provided to build them. The end product was the Perring Parkway we have come to know. Its undeveloped landscape is likely the land that would have been used for the Freeway. Just like the I-795 extension in the City, I see no reason why this should plan should be resurrected.

Next we come to I-695 itself. Remember when I said that a couple of failed Freeway attempts make up the east side of I-695? Well this begs the question; What was the proposed alignment of I-695? Today's Southeastern Boulevard was the original alignment for I-695. It would have used that alignment rather than having to take that tight awkward ramp to stay on the road. Southeastern Boulevard actually forms a perfect circle when teamed with Back River Neck Road where it could rejoin the current I-695 alignment in Edgemere just northeast of its interchange with North Point Boulevard. Unlike every other failed freeway attempt, I would like to see this happen. I was never a fan of I-695's eastern alignment and upgrading Southeastern Boulevard and Back River Neck Road to interstate would allow that to happen. Now, what IS the eastern side of I-695?

The eastern side of I-695 is composed of two failed freeway attempts. First is the Windlass Freeway. When built in its entirety, the Windlass Freeway would have started as an extension of Mroavia Road at I-95 (ghost ramps are present here) and would have run parallel to Pulaski Highway and Eastern Avenue. Right where I-695 makes that VERY sharp turn is the considered the southern end of the built section of the Windlass Freeway. The northern end is at the interchange of I-695 and Southeastern Boulevard. This appears to be a hurried attempt of an afterthought to complete I-695 when the proposed alignment and the Windlass Freeway were scrapped. That small portion of I-695 is still referred to ass the Windlass Freeway on some maps. In the midst of the very sharp turn on I-695/The Windlass Freeway, there are ghost ramps present to indicate where the Windlass Freeway would have continued on to meet Moravia Road at I-95. The Freeway was supposed to have ended northbound at what is now White Marsh Boulevard. 

If Southeastern Boulevard were to become I-695's east side, then the Windlass Freeway could be built in between Moravia Road and the current I-695/Windlass Freeway without much disruption. It would simply run in between I-95 and I-695 providing relief to the congestion in the area. 

The second failed freeway attempt that makes up the eastern side of I-695, is known as the Patapsco Freeway. This runs south of the sharp turn on the Windlass Freeway portion and stops at the Back River Neck. The Patapsco Freeway could have made for a northern alternative to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge if extended past I-695. There's no telling how long the Patapsco Freeway could then run once on the eastern shore. Given how sparse the land is it could go all the way to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in Delaware. The Ghost ramps at the sharp turn on I-695 are where the Windlass Freeway and Patapsco Freeway were to intersect, not knowing at the time they would become the same road. Like the Windlass Freeway, the Patapsco Freeway portion of I-695 is still labeled as such on some maps.

This ends another segment on my series of old freeway attempts. I'm sure I surprised some of you by my wanting to realign the eastern side of I-695 to the current alignment of Southeastern Boulevard and extend the Windlass Freeway portion to Moravia Road at I-95. The Patapsco Freeway also makes sense as a northern alternative to the bay bridge. The series isn't over yet. What will my finale reveal? Stay tuned to find out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Revisiting Old Freeway Attempts Part I: The I-95 Connections

If you take a look at maps of Baltimore and surrounding areas, you will see a plethora of Freeway plans that never came to fruition. The reasons why are endless, the three biggest were; Neighborhood protests, lack of funding, and environmental concerns. Another reason was that in some cases, building freeways in that particular area or region was flat out a bad idea. Some of these un-built freeways were good ideas and as such, I wonder if somehow several billion dollars magically appeared if revisiting these old Freeways would be a good idea. I will examine all freeway attempts even the outlandishly bad ones.

During the era that Eisenhower signed the Interstate System into law, cities across the Country were literally being torn apart to make way for these new Freeways. It was thought that people would ditch cities in favor of suburbs and cities would be nothing more than slums and a Central Business District. In a lot of cases this is exactly what happened and some blame the intrusive freeways for speeding up the process. Baltimore actually got off light with its freeways but the original plans were much and grandiose.

First there was I-70. Ever notice how weird it was that it just abruptly stops at the Park & Ride lot at the City/County line just east of I-695? Well, it wasn't supposed to. I-70 was supposed to continue on into the City plowing through Leakin Park at the cost of Baltimore's largest and greenest park, have an exit onto Hilton Parkway, have a spur that leads directly into Downtown (more about that later) where it finally ends at a seemingly more appropriate location at I-95 between Caton Avenue and Washington Boulevard. Ghost ramps along I-95 tell this story. City Residents put up a fight to save Leakin Park before this segment of I-70 was built and were successful in saving Leakin Park.

Now should we revisit this and try again to extend I-70 to meet I-95? Absolutely not. As far as the environmental concerns go, nothing has changed. In fact, the addition of the Gywnn's Falls Trail has only added to the notion that Leakin Park is not to be disturbed. 

Next we come to I-170 aka the Road to Nowhere. Highway Planners were so sure that funding would be secured for the I-70 extension to I-95 and that the Community at large would support it that they began building the spur to Downtown known as I-170. Since I-70 wouldn't hit Downtown itself, planners decided to build a small three mile spur that would connect I-70 to Downtown. Roughly one mile and a half miles of the spur was constructed at the expense of hundreds of Residents between Franklin and Mulberry St. before the plan to connect I-70 to I-95 was canceled. The result was and is a broken Community that has yet to recover from this invasive freeway project. Planners tried to make it worth something by connecting I-170 to I-95 without the I-70 connection. This would be known as I-595. This also didn't pass and I-170 became the Road to Nowhere.

Again the question comes, should we try to revive this? Again the answer is no. Like I had before, the Citizens of Baltimore don't want to have Leakin Park destroyed and in order to connect the I-170 spur, more homes in West Baltimore would have be destroyed further ruining the Community. It should also be noted that City Planners want to dismantle the portion of "freeway" that was already built to build a mixed use TOD Community in its place to spur the revitalization of West Baltimore.

Another Freeway that was supposed to connect to I-95 was I-83 aka the JFX. The reason it didn't continue as a freeway past Fayette St. was because of Community backlash, just like the extension of I-70 that never came to fruition. I-83 was supposed to remain a freeway going into what is now Inner Harbor East through Fells Point and finally along Boston St. in Canton. it would connect to I-95 near the O'Donnell St./Boston St. Interchange as evidenced by Ghost Ramps. Back then, Inner Harbor East was nothing more than parking lots and industrial ruins and Fells Point and Canton had gone into decline. One big reason for their turn around was the idea that the I-83 extension would destroy their historic Row Homes and take the fabric of the Neighborhood with it a la the Road to Nowhere. 

Should we revive this attempt? Fortunately that would be impossible. Gievn how much redevelopment has gone on in the area, building a Freeway in the middle of it would erode all the progress that was made in Southeast Baltimore and turn it into the Road to Nowhere Corridor. If that's not reason enough to not revive the I-83 extension I don't know what is. I should also mention that there are currently plans to turn I-83 from Fayette St. to Preston St. into an at-grade Boulevard in an effort to connect Downtown to East Baltimore and spur more redevelopment. It seems that Baltimore wants to reduce its Freeways rather than add to them.

That's about it for the I-95 connections. This will be a three part series due to the wealth of abandoned Freeway ideas the Baltimore area has. Stay tuned.