LEAVE IT to the market economy to make real what theoreticians proposed several decades ago: a unified Baltimore-Washington region. The two areas, with vastly different economies and personalities, are drawing closer and closer. Business imperatives are accelerating the pace.
In a few years, the region will have a single, consolidated electric utility serving the needs of folks in Washington, D.C., and Gaithersburg as well as Baltimore and White Marsh. The two areas also soon will have a unified health-care alliance, combining the Washington-area Medlantic Healthcare Group and the larger Helix Health network of hospitals (Church Home, Franklin Square, Good Samaritan, Union Memorial) in Baltimore.
These combinations -- why not call it the "Chesapeake Corridor" -- were driven by market forces, as dramatic changes hit the worlds of health care and electric-generating companies. To survive, and thrive, regional mergers seem imperative.
Increasingly, companies approach Baltimore and Washington as a single market. New merchandisers are eager to enter the marketplace by blanketing each end of the region with stores. And places in between, too.
It's in Howard and Anne Arundel counties where the two regional cultures are merging the fastest. For instance, nearly as many commuters travel to Baltimore from these subdivisions as travel to Washington.
Look at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Anne Arundel. A recent survey of license plates in BWI parking lots showed as many travelers from Montgomery County as there were from Baltimore County. BWI has become the region's common airport.
All that's missing from this merger of interests is a political merger of the two regions. That gulf remains huge. There's more misunderstanding than understanding on many key issues in the State House. Often, delegates from Montgomery don't even seem to be speaking the same language as city delegates.
And yet the business communities have bridged such gaps. More and more, consumers are looking at "home" as a broader geographic area. The "Chesapeake Corridor" megalopolis may not be around the corner quite yet, but the trend lines are headed in that direction.