Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Camden Station should be a train station again!

Last year, ten years after Sports Legends at Camden Yards opened a pop culture museum in the historic trains station at Camden Yards, the lease ended without great fanfare and the old station stood empty once again as it had decades before the baseball stadium was built and even years after its exterior had been renovated to fit in with the shiny new ballpark.
Station without tracks (Photo: Ed Gunts)

It isn't easy to give an old train station a new use.

Now another use is in discussion: Junior Achievement of Central Maryland has been meeting with the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Baltimore Orioles about leasing space inside the former train station at 301 W. Camden Street.

Ironically, according to according to Ed Gunts writing in the Baltimore Fishbowl in June of this year, the MTA is looking at the same time how to replace the temporary structure that currently shelters MARC and light rail riders at the Camden Yards station and has met in June with the Stadium Authority's Michael Frenz who commented: "For a long time, we didn’t necessarily feel it reflected the aesthetic of our property".
the temporary space frame "station" for MARC and LRT cut-off by
Conway Street extension (Photo: ArchPlan Inc.)

The logical conclusion: Instead of building a new station to replace the current spaceframe and instead of filling the historic station with uses that don't fit, use the old station for what it was designed! Use the money that a new train station would cost to extend the tracks again so they actually reach the station and are more convenient for MARC commuters.

To understand why the tracks end so far from the old station requires going back to the time when the Oriole Park and the original light rail line was built. Before 1990 the tracks actually ended right behind the old station. The masterplan required vehicular access to Howard Street right where it becomes I-395 and it was resolved to align the access with Conway Street and move the tracks south of that point with a second light rail station being built between Camden and Pratt Streets.
Moving the tracks north and extend Lee Street?

Even though this solution is clearly car-centric and declares transit and pedestrian convenience a lower priority, it isn't likely that the Stadium Authority will give up on an access and egress point to I-395. Should the tracks be moved north again they would block the Conway Street alignment and a subsitute would have to be constructed. An underpass could be built south of Conway Street with an on and off ramp running parallel to the tracks along I-395 with another set of ramps near or at the south end of the warehouse where it could align with the internal street between the two stadia. While this may give some engineers a headache, it would be a solution in favor of pedestrian and transit access. And it would make the old station a useful building again.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA