The Baltimore City Department of Transportation has yet to propose a comprehensive plan for future management of traffic in the area around 25th Street Station, a proposed new 337,000-plus-square-foot shopping center with 70 or more dwelling units.
According to the traffic impact study for this massive new development, the area of impact extends from North Avenue to 29th Street and from the Jones Falls Expressway to Greenmount Avenue. To date, the study recommends no improvements to roads within this area.
In the 10 months since the project was first announced under the previous mayor, the Transportation Department has yet to conduct a single public forum on traffic issues. Area property owners, residents and businesses have seen no "big board" showing how the street grid around the shopping center will look and how it will function. No such plan has been presented in public — not even at the recent hearing before the City Council's Land Use and Transportation Committee.
If the elected officials who represent this area have seen such a plan, they aren't saying.
There are some hints of what is to come. A planned left turn lane from northbound Howard Street to West 25th Street has been shortened from a block in length to half a block, reducing the number of Walmart-bound cars that can line up and wait at that critical commercial intersection and constrict through traffic in both directions to a single lane.
Meanwhile, plans for bike lanes along Huntingdon Avenue have apparently been scrapped by the Transportation Department in favor of expanding road capacity to include a second traffic lane in each direction. Efforts by Remington residents to persuade the city to direct shopping center traffic around, not through, Huntingdon Avenue and other densely residential streets appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Reasonable suggestions for alternative routes are being ignored, if not altogether rejected.
There is legitimate concern among stakeholders that when the Transportation Department's traffic plan is finally revealed, it won't be pretty.
It's not too late for the City Council to demand a better process — not only for the sake of those affected but also to inform its own decision-making. Before taking further action on 25th Street Station, the City Council should insist that the Transportation Department call together area property owners, residents and businesses; present a comprehensive traffic plan; explain its function; and reveal its cost and funding sources. Only then will stakeholders be empowered to inform their elected representatives about the real traffic impacts of this project.
Finally, to protect the immediately affected community as well as city taxpayers, the City Council should add a traffic impact mitigation contingency fee of $1 million or more, to be paid by the developer, as a condition of approval.
Joan Floyd is president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance. Her e-mail is email@example.com.