By Julie Baughman, firstname.lastname@example.org
5:40 PM EST, February 18, 2013
For Del. James Malone, the news that the Southwest Adult Video store on Southwestern Boulevard could be closing meant an opportunity to solve a longtime commuter problem in the area.
Malone, who represents District 12A that includes Halethorpe, said the store's location at 2648 Southwestern Boulevard could be used for a parking lot that would help reduce anticipated ongestion from the newly renovated Halethorpe MARC train station.
"I got a call that they moved out," said the veteran legislator of the controversial store. "As soon as I got the call that they moved out, I contacted Ralign Wells, who is the administrator of MTA (Maryland Transit Administration), and I've talked to the gentleman... who is representing the video store and we are working with them as we speak ... to see about buying all that property so we can put more parking there."
Malone, who serves on the House of Delegates' Motor Vehicles and Transportation Subcommittee, said he knows that traffic and parking are a big concern as construction on the new station heads into its final stages the station begins to attract more commuters to the area.
"When MTA comes in there, they'll come in there and beautify the entire area so we have more parking for the people riding the train," he said. "It's a win-win for the community, it's a win-win for MTA, and the state, and all the people who ride the train."
Malone said turning the adult video store site into a parking lot would alleviate some of those traffic concerns while also eliminating a business that some have protested is inappropriate in a community.
"It will get that eyesore out of Halethorpe and it will be a mega, mega win for the community," Malone said.
At the current station, the overflow from the parking lots spills onto both sides of Southwestern Boulevard and into residential areas. With the new station expected to be even busier, residents have voiced concerns about where those cars will go.
David McIntyre lives on 1st Avenue across the train tracks and Southwestern Boulevard from the construction site of the new station. He said that parking was one of his concerns when plans for the new station were announced.
"I think the only issue we were having ... was that there were a lot of people who couldn't get into the parking lot (at the station) so they were getting into the neighborhoods," McIntyre said.
"It's pretty much filled," McIntyre said of the current parking lots. "So if this new construction somehow is going to increase ridership at that station, I think parking is definitely going to become an issue."
One of the final stages of the upgrade to the Halethorpe MARC train station was completed in the early morning hours of Feb. 10.
A 40-ton pedestrian bridge that connects the two newly erected elevator towers was installed around 2 a.m. with the help of a 550-ton crane.
"This was the last big piece," said Terry Owens, spokesman for the Maryland Transit Administration.
The new station, located about a quarter-mile from the existing station, will feature numerous improvements, including handicap accessible elevator towers and a 700-foot raised platform that will make boarding and exiting trains easier.
"One of the major improvements of the station is these elevators that will make it easier for people to get from the north platform to the south platform," Owens said.
"Before, people had to walk up and down stairs and over a bridge to go from one side of the tracks to the other," he said. "Now, you have an elevator that will take you up."
Carol Mox, president of the Halethorpe Improvement Association, said she thinks the project will be a great improvement for the community but recognizes the potential problems the new station might bring.
"I think, here you have gas prices are going up, so mass transit becomes more important," Mox said. "Improving the station is an investment and helps businesses and residential growth around our community.
"The other side of that is, it's commuters versus residential people," she said. "The concerns are parking (and) traffic congestion. But I think our elected officials are trying to address that issue."
Though many believe the newly improved station will benefit the community, some residents have been less than thrilled with the construction process.
Christine Bruchey lives on Winans Avenue, directly across the street from the construction site. She said the process has been a great disturbance.
"They have these bright flood lights they throw on," Bruchey said. "I get the pleasure of hearing them banging steel."
Bruchey said she is tired of dealing with construction noise and workers who have been rude to her and her family.
"I'm just done with them, with that," she said.
However, she does see one benefit.
"I understand the way they made this it's going to be wheelchair accessible," Bruchey said. "I think it's good, that they have the wheelchair access."
McIntyre, however, said he hasn't been too bothered by the noise.
"I think when they were initially, I guess, putting in the pylons for the two tall elevators that are going on either side, there were times that you could hear the banging of that," McIntyre said.
However, McIntyre said the noise from construction hasn't been much more than the daily noise that comes from the train.
"I've lived there so long that I don't really even hear the trains," McIntyre said. "You almost tune it out."