With the Board of Estimates having given its blessings, design work on a new entrance plaza and underground parking garage at Pennsylvania Station can finally begin. When the much-talked about $15.2 million project is finished, it will provide a focal point for improvements taking place in the area of Mount Royal Avenue.
The bad news is that the 550-garage is likely to be too small the day it opens because two nearby open-air lots will be closed. Meanwhile, Amtrak passenger volume is steadily increasing. And the state-operated commuter rail service's dramatic growth promises to continue, particularly with the inauguration soon of a new line serving Eastern Baltimore County and Harford County. Many of the commuters will need parking every day. Add to this the forthcoming light-rail line and its spur to Penn Station and it is easy to see how parking could be a major headache.
This is only one aspect of the surrounding area's parking problem. With the University of Baltimore about to build a new business school, the time may not be far off when 10,000 students are enrolled on its mid-town campus. Already, parking around the university is at a premium as students compete with patrons of the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Lyric Theater for available spots. The situation is likely to grow worse when the nearby state office complex expands.
H. Mebane Turner, the University of Baltimore president, deserves much credit for his hard work in addressing his school's parking crunch. But unless he can get help from other area institutions, a serious headache is in the offing. Fortunately, easy solutions also are available, if various bureaucracies can be made cooperate.
A Saint Paul Street property currently occupied by the Postal Service could easily accommodate Penn Station's long-range parking needs. That would require a land swap, however, which would have to be engineered by City Hall. Similarly, a multi-level deck on the University of Baltimore Bolton Yards parking lot could provide spaces for all the cultural institutions. But it would require understanding in Annapolis and an imaginative financing arrangement.
The Penn Station improvements promise to be bring revitalization to the Mount Royal neighborhood. Each success increases the need for convenient and secure parking, however. Dr. Turner says he is willing to coordinate the planning effort. He needs and deserves help.