Try some old shortcuts when modern interstates get backed up

Jacques Kelly

August 01, 1991|By Jacques Kelly

Baltimoreans enjoy arguing the merits and drawbacks of certain well-traveled routes and the shortcuts to use when main roads are congested. Here's a guide to some shortcuts that have existed since pre-Beltway Baltimore.

One of my favorite westward shortcuts is the Gwynns Falls Parkway-Leakin Park route to Interstate 70 West, Columbia, Frederick and other points west. From the city, take 29th Street, go over the 29th Street Bridge, then around Druid Hill Park, make a left turn onto Gwynns Falls Parkway. You'll drive by Mondawmin, go through Walbrook and skirt the edge of Windsor Hills.

Follow the road and descend into Leakin Park via Windsor Mill Road. You'll pass under the Clifton Avenue Bridge, a remarkable piece of 1920s poured-concrete construction. If you stay on Windsor Mill Road, you'll eventually wind up at the West Forest Park Avenue traffic light, where you make a left. Then drive down another steep hill, cross Security Boulevard and follow the I-70 sign for Columbia, Frederick or Hagerstown.

The same route can be used for trips to Catonsville or Hunting Ridge. Take Gwynns Falls Parkway to Wetheredsville Road, turn left onto Wetheredsville and pick up Franklintown Road in Leakin Park. From here, it's a short hop through the Hunting Ridge neighborhood (Winans Way) to U.S. 40 West.

If along the way you make a wrong turn, you might wind up in ever-delightful Dickeyville.

My father considers it a sacred rite to begin southerly trips to Washington or the Eastern Shore by crossing the Hamburg Street Bridge in South Baltimore, due south of the new Camden Yards ballpark.

This bridge is being rebuilt but should be ready by Opening Day in April 1992. In the meantime, the old-fashioned Ostend Street Bridge handles traffic. Cab drivers returning from Baltimore-Washington International Airport via Russell Street use this route. They know a good thing.

A fast, often overlooked crosstown route is 25th Street eastbound, then an easy right turn onto Bonaparte Avenue, which crosses Harford Road and bends around the north side of the Eastside District Court. Take a left onto North Avenue to Wolfe Street and make a right to head south to Fells Point. On a reverse trip, take Washington Street northbound to North Avenue, turn left onto North and pick up the route at the eastside of the courthouse.

In northeast Baltimore, a valuable alternate route to Harford or Belair roads is Walther Avenue, which runs between them and has a fraction of their annoying traffic lights.

A good way to reach a midtown destination, say Memorial Stadium or Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, involves using Moravia Road. From Interstate 95 south, get on the Harbor Tunnel Thruway for a short distance and get off at Moravia Road. Stay on Moravia. It will cross Belair Road. I usually take a left at Walther, which feeds into Harford Road at Herring Run Park. From here, you can use 32nd and 33rd streets to the stadium or Hopkins.

There's an alternate way into the redeveloped harbor area off busy I-95. This is the Key Highway exit. Although there's a long traffic light under the highway, near the Port Covington industrial area, a leg of Key Highway leads directly into the harbor area.

Before you know it, you're passing Federal Hill and can pick up Light and Calvert streets. It's also handy if you should get confused and miss Interstate 395 and its Conway Street exit.

Some other traffic rules: Avoid Charles Street from Conway to Franklin streets. Calvert is generally the fastest northbound artery. Avoid Broadway, too many lights and the subway construction at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Milton Avenue, in East Baltimore, is an efficient north-south route which connects nicely with Belair Road.

Falls Road is always good. Remember, however, the Falls Road Bridge just above Mount Washington is closed for repairs.

Madison Street's traffic lights are timed well for the most part and allow good traffic flow across town. Cab drivers often take this route to get to Martin Luther King Boulevard in a hurry. A fast shortcut to downtown from the boulevard is Druid Hill Avenue, which becomes Centre Street at Howard Street. Centre connects with St. Paul Street or Guilford Avenue, both good routes to the Inner Harbor.

Don't always let reflex action direct you to the Baltimore Beltway or the Jones Falls Expressway, which are not always the fastest routes because of heavy traffic.

And lastly, praise the heavens for Md. 97 to Annapolis and U.S. 50 to the Eastern Shore.

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