Thursday, August 27, 2015

Community Compact projects to be be done even without the Red Line(Part 2)

This is the third article about the "future of transit in the Baltimore region" after the termination of the Red Line and the second half of a ten point list of projects that should be done anyway.

As I wrote in  my article yesterday
With the transit dollars gone, community needs in the Red Line corridor remain as much as the transit needs themselves, and so does the urgency for them to be met. Originally thought to be "leveraged" by the transit investment, it is now time to reverse the logic and make these investments first so they then can leverage transit later.
The events of this year have brought back into focus the urgency of investing in the western inner city communities of  Poppleton, Harlem Park, Edmondson-Midtown, Rosemont and Edmondson Village, all communities that would have been served by the Red Line and which met for 18 months in countless evening meetings to develop a vision and a design concept for each of the areas around the planned stations.
Even out in Baltimore County, Security Square Mall is ailing and residents in surrounding communities would appreciate investment, upgrades and a good selection of stores and services instead of the current discount mall with all the wasted space around it.

Here the second half of the list of projects that came out of the community based station area planning process or subsequent discussions with stakeholders. This list covers the corridor from downtown to the western end of the Red Line corridor in Baltimore County.

6.     Healing around the "highway to nowhere"
The so called “highway to nowhere” is a vestige of misguided freeway plans thwarted elsewhere. It has placed irreparable harm on the surrounding communities and destroyed thousands of homes. Running the Red Line in the depressed freeway median area supposed to transform this mile long stretch into a “highway to somewhere”. Station area development plans called for knitting the two sides together across the scar through development in the vacant grass strips and improvements of the bridges. That work remains critically important.
Weaving the "highway to nowhere" together with edge development and
redesigned bridges

7.     West Baltimore MARC station improvements and TOD
The current MARC Station sits in the center of the now famous West Baltimore neighborhoods surrounded by abandonment and parking. The station itself is poorly equipped. It received some cosmetic upgrades in 2014 but remains non compliant with ADA. It was assumed to be an intermodal connection point to the Red Line. Even without the Red Line it is still Baltimore's station closest to DC with the potential of attracting residents who can't afford DC real estate. As the drawing shows, there are vast opportunities for development near the station. The MARC station upgrade included in the MARC masterplan should proceed as well.

 TOD areas stretch between West Baltimore and Rosemont.
Possible redevelopment areas (yellow) near the West Baltimore MARC Station and Rosemont

8.     Edmondson Village transit hub and village center
The historic, now ailing Edmondson Village shopping center was supposed to get a shot in the arm by the construction of the near 1000 dwelling Uplands. However, only the early phases of this development have been realized. The Red Line station was supposed to be located right in the center between the new development and the historic Edmondson Village communities. Here, as in Highlandtown the station was supposed to bridge across the dividing traffic artery with the station as a “place maker”. Turning the area into a true village center serving the neighborhoods to the north as well as those new ones to the south remains vitally important. Here is also space for a true transit hub for high efficiency/frequency improved bus.
Edmondson Village area re-imagining the Skill Center and the
shopping center 

9. I-70 Park and Ride

This portion of the abandoned I-70 connector to I-95 currently is a pretty dysfunctional park and ride lot temporarily established on parts of the interstate surface. The Red Line was supposed to have started a process in which a part of I-70 would have been decommissioned and turned into an attractive urban bouldevard. The cloverleaf  of ramps would have been converted to green spaces and a park and ride lot. These concepts and what surrounding communities and the Friends of Leakin Park have developed as great ideas on how to transform the gained road and ramp surfaces into an extension of Leakin Park and the Park and Ride area into a trail head for the Gwynns Fall trail leading into downtown remain attractive and should be realized adding value to the entire area.
I -70 location and bike-ped connections

10. Security Square Mall mixed use TOD center

This ailing mall in Baltimore County was supposed to be served by the Red Line with its last station before the terminus at CMS (The Medicare complex). The glory days of the mall long gone, the vast parking lots are barely used and their periphery serves the QB 40 bus as a pedestrian unfriendly ill designed staging area. Even without the Red Line, a conversion into a dense mixed use center similar to Clarendon (Arlington County, VA) would be highly desirable. A high efficiency/frequency improved bus could serve it).
Interface of the Red Line at Security Mall. No TOD was shown here because
the mall owners could not agree to it

The Clarendon town center is a good example of dense mixed use inserted
into a low density suburban setting near a transit station

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Part 1 see here

My firm ArchPlan participated in the community based station area planning for the Poppleton, Harlem Park, West Baltimore, Rosemont and Edmondson Village station areas and has worked on various West Baltimore TOD plans. 


  1. # 9 in your list of Community Compact issues that still need to be considered - the I-70 Park and Ride. Before the Red Line project was terminated a dedicated group of local community activists were pushing hard to save the last I-70 bridge just before the Park & Ride, the overpass over Security Boulevard. Their hope was to convert the bridge to an aerial crossing of Security Bulevard for pedestrians and cyclists.It was called the "I-70 Trail Connector." At over 28,000 square feet, there were thoughts of using the bridge platform as an aerial park to be used as a community commons and a link from the emerging Baltimore County trail network to the Gwynns Falls Trail in Leakin Park and on to the Inner Harbor. The State Highway Administration is still considering what to do with I-70 inside the Beltway. What to do with the I-70 Trail Connector needs to remain part of those deliberations.

  2. Thank you for continuing to advocate for these reforms! One minor edit, and one request: "Edmondson-Midtown" should be "Midtown-Edmondson"; the request is to support the movement to change the referencing of "highway to nowhere" to the "Franklin-Mulberry Expressway" or "FMX". The FMX ends in my community ("Midtown-Edmondson"), and even though "highway to nowhere" is a commonly known nickname, it is aggravating to know that people subconsciously associate the abandoned homes at the end of the FMX with "nowhere." I think we all have to be mindful of that framing and power dynamic when we advocate for reforms to people who don't live in our communities, and have the power to destroy them.

    Thanks again for your hard work and support!!