More than three years after it began, city officials celebrated the completion of a project that transformed Charles Street near the Johns Hopkins University into a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly boulevard.

More than three years after it began, city officials celebrated the completion of a project that transformed Charles Street near the Johns Hopkins University into a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly boulevard.

The $28 million reconstruction of the thoroughfare, paid for with a mix of federal, local and university funds, stretches from East 25th Street to University Parkway. Portions of Charles Street near Johns Hopkins were closed during the work.


The project began in July 2012 and was completed earlier this month, though the road reopened to traffic last fall.

The redesign was meant to beautify and improve the safety of the busy road, which is crossed by thousands of pedestrians at all hours daily when school is in session. The street lies between the Homewood campus and Charles Village, where many students live in dorms or rent apartments.

It now boasts wider sidewalks and raised crosswalks, increased lighting, more traffic signals and new bike lanes, as well as a new "art plaza" at the corner of 33rd Street.

"I know it was difficult for some in the community to have Charles Street closed for an extended period of time, but with the high-level of pedestrian traffic associated with the college campus — as many as 14,000 pedestrians each day — significant steps were needed to ensure the safety of everyone involved," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Before the project began, Charles Street by Johns Hopkins offered two northbound lanes and a single narrow southbound lane that swept onto Art Museum Drive, allowing cars to take the turn at speed. Many called that lightly used southbound stretch the "death lane," according to City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, because it did little to slow vehicles yet pedestrians often didn't expect traffic.

The redesign narrowed the median and removed trees that blocked sight lines for drivers and pedestrians. The road now offers a wider single lane each way with a parallel bike lane and parking alongside the roadside. The turn onto the road in front of the Baltimore Museum of Art was sharpened to a 90-degree angle.

The improvements, including the raised, wider and better-marked pedestrian crossings, have the effect of calming and slowing any through traffic.

The project began to "provide much-needed traffic and pedestrian safety improvements along this corridor," City Department of Transportation Director William Johnson said. "We also worked very hard, with all of our stakeholders, to beautify this corridor and to improve access for bikes and all forms of transportation."

Charles Street, which stretches from south Baltimore north into Towson, is one of four National Scenic Byways located in an urban setting.

Federal funds paid for 80 percent of the project, while Johns Hopkins and the city each chipped in about 10 percent. The city money came from motor vehicle revenue funds. The 1% for Public Art program, through the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, installed a sculpture in a plaza at 33rd Street, called "Optical Gardens."

Clarke called the project expensive, "but overall it is a good product. It will be a benefit to the entire city."

While the road was torn up, the city also made improvements to conduits, water lines and storm drains under Charles Street, said Adrienne Barnes, spokeswoman for the city's Department of Transportation.

Johns Hopkins, which contributed about $2.5 million, welcomed the redesign.

"The new improvements and amenities are not only a benefit to our students, faculty, staff and parents, but they also strengthen the Homewood campus' connection to Charles Village and our neighboring communities," said Robert McLean, the university's vice president of facilities and real estate.


Hopkins sophomore Sandra Gomez, 21, said the construction work meant she had to plan more time to get to class but now that it's complete, there are a number of safe crossings for those walking to campus.

"It's easier," she said.

Liz Cornish, the executive director of Bikemore, a nonprofit that advocates for biking in the city, said the new Charles Street is "a huge improvement" for safety, and wants to see more "complete streets" projects, that include accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians.

"Charles Street is a huge north-south connector for people," Cornish said. "It really opens up the possibility for people to try biking for transportation."

The project was the culmination of 20 years of work between the community and the university to address "chronic problems" with this part of Charles Street, said Sandy Sparks, president of Charles Village Civic Association.

"It was actually a dangerous street before," Sparks said. "Today, we have this gorgeous, pedestrian-friendly street."