mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Let's make our city better by making it harder to get to...

I consider myself a Baltimore blogger, but I rarely blog about Baltimore. I'm not real knowledgable about B-more politics, and when you have a one-party town like B-more, there aren't really any big political debates.

But I happened to be at the Baltimore Sun's website looking for an article a coworker had mentioned, and I stumbled on this bit of stupidity. Walter Sondheim, an outside developer, wants to tear down I-83 south of around exit 5 or so. I-83, AKA the Jones Falls Expressway, is a 6-lane overhead highway that goes thru the center of Baltimore, ending near the Downtown/Inner Harbor. It's the way that the many people who work in Downtown Baltimore City get there, as well as tourists who go to the Inner Harbor.

Urbanists have this dislike of cars, and love the idea of tearing down highways and discouraging cars. What they don't seem to realize is that there are a lot of people who don't live in the city, but work in it, shop in it, drink in it, ect. Getting rid of a highway may be good for a few neighborhoods that it runs through, but it would suck for a large chunk of the city. I'm not even sure it would help the neighborhoods out - one of the things I like about living in Resevoir Hill is that I'm literally a few blocks away from I-83, making it an easy trip into downtown or out of the city.

As much as the New Urbanist types hate cars and roads, they are a fact of life. Most people don't like being stacked on top of each other. They like having a backyard and some space, and cars let that happen.

One other fact from the article I didn't know:

[I-83] was designed to speed motorists on a seven-mile stretch through town and then onto Interstate 95 south of the city. The I-95 connector scheme crashed and burned in the 1980s, however, when preservationists argued that extending the highway would destroy Fells Point.

I work in the Roland Park/Guilford area, and I'm taking some night MBA classes in a graduate center in Columbia, MD. My commute involves hopping on 83 to the end, the driving 2 blocks, making a left, driving 3 blocks, making another left, driving two more blocks, right, then three blocks more and a left - with traffic lights and city rush-hour traffic - just to get to 95 to go to Columbia. That makes up a large chunk of my commute, and it's a pain. The fact that it could be so much easier annoys me. I mean, I like Fells and all, but I also like getting to my destination quickly, and the fact that it's been blocked by "preservationists" irks me.


At 12:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's actually more complicated than the story indicates, although I'm a new arrival to Baltimore, too, so I don't have all the details. Essentially, they'd have blown away Fells Point and Canton, plus a pretty good-sized chunk of the rest of downtown. At the time, it was all broken-down warehouses and crappy contaminated chemical dumps, but Barbara Mikulski and many others really got on the case to stop it.

Anyway, about the commute issue... I live in Mount Vernon, and I'd recommend avoiding the leg through downtown if you can manage it. I'd take the Maryland Avenue exit, then cut over to Howard/MLK, and take that all the way to 395. Driving through downtown traffic drives me insane. There's no good way to deal with Baltimore rush hour, but avoiding the hell that is Light Street is a major bonus.

-- Michael

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that it's useful for people travelling in the city- and I wish that there were better public transit (in particular, rail transit) to make this highway useless- but it is an undeniably ugly highway, and an insult to the eyes. There are a few sections of this highway that I think should not exist. The first section is over the Jones Falls near Hampden. It would be a prettier area, almost like an urban village, if it didn't have that monstrosity sailing right through it. Second section I think detracts from the city is the portion south of the Guilford exit. It's a flyover that functionally divides downtown from East Baltimore. It makes the area around City Hall look much crappier by limiting the architecture and possibility for public spaces. And it makes everything north of Fayette and East of President look like it should be demolished. On top of that, it necessitates the Orleans flyover which makes all the building on the east side of the split in St. Paul look bad, with the huge aerial roadway passing within feet of some nice historical properties.

Here's my call: squirreling away/money resources for an I-83 in an open cut, like it is, before Guilford. Run the cut all the way to President Street, and if necessary, deck over portions of it to make it a functional part of the city. I don't think anyone would complain about additional park space near downtown. Furthermore, it could be park space running adjacent to the now buried portions of the Jones Falls, which could be reopened. It wouldn't take Big Dig-type technologies to build an open-cut highway and keep it from flooding because of the Jones Falls.

The first step in the process to making these changes a success- the only way fiscal conservatives know how- castrate the funding for maintenance of this section, and when it is no longer useable/ driveable, have it torn down as a blight on the community. It seems like the natural way to destroy something we don't like.

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Most people like some yard space"-except, of course, yard space next to a highway, which is why we have those 15-foot sound walls all over I-695. And as I see it, given the price of housing in Fells Point, Canton, Butcher's Hill- that is the areas that people would have demolished for your I-95 connector, people do like being stacked on top of each other.

When your young, being in a hip neighborhood is fun. When you're old, being in a condo where you don't have to shovel snow is nice.

There would have been no drinking establishments or culture left in Fells Pt with a I-95 extension, so I guess for our freedom of movement would instead have to enjoy all the culture highlights of bars in Baltimore County strip malls. Woo-hoo!


Post a Comment

<< Home