Charles Street reconstruction

A service road, right, and Charles Street from University Parkway to 29th Street in Charles Village are slated for reconstruction. Pictured is service road and Charles Street looking south from Art Museum Drive. (Staff photo by Elizabeth Eck / August 28, 2012)

Sept. 5 is D-Day for the two-year, $28 million project to reconstruct North Charles Street between University Parkway and 25th Street in Charles Village.

The "D" in this case stands for detour, which is what thousands of motorists a day will have to do starting that date until the anticipated end of construction in August 2014,according to Baltimore City transportation officials.

The "D" could also stand for delays. City and project officials say that until the project gets under way, they have no way of knowing how slow the going will be, and how much if at all the detour will back up rush- hour traffic on Charles and the detour streets of St. Paul and Calvert.

Much will depend on how many motorists use the detours, and how many use suggested alternate routes like Interstate-83, York Road and Falls Road, said Rick McGraw, construction manager for Charles Street reconstruction.


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McGraw's best advice is for the public to constantly check the official Charles Street reconstruction website, http://www.charlesstreetreconstruction.com, to see what traffic conditions are like.

Checking the website is "going to help the problem more than anything," McGraw said.

City officials say the long-term gain will be more balanced traffic patterns, increased pedestrian and bicycle safety, upgraded aging infrastructure, improved signage, business revitalization, and a more aesthetically pleasing Charles Street, in keeping with its designation as a National Scenic Byway.

The reconstruction in north Baltimore is the fourth phase of an overall effort to reconstruct Charles Street, one of the city's main north-south arteries from downtown to north Baltimore.

"We want Charles Street to be a place that people visit, not just drive through," said Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Transportation.

But the short-term pain will be in the project's effect on traffic and business.

The southbound detour is to St. Paul Street and the northbound detour is to North Calvert Street. There will be no detour between 33rd Street and Art Museum Drive, transportation officials say.

Construction will start and the detours will go into effect simultaneously.

"If we're going to shut down (the street), we have to be prepared to start (construction) at that time," McGraw said.

Pedestrian-friendly

The project calls for resurfacing North Charles between 25th and 29th streets, with sporadic curb and sidewalk repairs, a new electric duct bank for underground wiring, traffic signals, bike lanes and handicapped-accessible ramps, transportation officials say.

From 29th Street to University Parkway, the project calls for full-depth pavement reconstruction of North Charles with reconfigured and landscaped medians, new sidewalks, curbs, gutters, water quality inlets, waterlines, lighting, bike lanes, professional art work and landscaping, transportation officials say.

A sweeping, speeding-prone right turn from southbound Charles onto Art Museum Drive near Wyman Park Dell will be converted to a 90-degree turn. Transportation officials have long complained traffic goes too fast there because of the curve's wide radius.

The southbound service drive that runs along Charles Street will be eliminated. The northbound service drive will be reconstructed and widened from 13 to 16 feet, McGraw said.

Johns Hopkins University will be the beneficiary of a pedestrian-friendly "ellipse" in front of the Homewood campus entrance, giving the street the feel and look of a plaza.

Hopkins, of which its campus fronts North Charles Street between 28th Street and University Parkway and is expected to be the most impacted by the project, is paying $2.5 million of the cost of the project, with other monies coming from federal and local coffers.