White Marsh's New Look

February 01, 1993

After Baltimore County created a pair of "growth centers" a decade ago, it treated them the way Mrs. Smothers allegedly treated her twin boys. As comedian Tommy Smothers might put it: "Mom always liked Owings Mills best."

While Baltimore County spoon-fed Owings Mills with elaborate infrastructure, building superhighways in preparation for a development boom there, over on the northeast side of the county it laid little groundwork for its stepchild town center, White Marsh. In Owings Mills, the road network preceded development; in White Marsh, it's been the other way around.

That imbalance was righted a little recently with the opening of a White Marsh Boulevard interchange on the beltway, near Carney. Now, eastbound motorists, from Towson for example, can travel to White Marsh Mall without venturing onto Interstate 95. County officials are not promoting the new road as a shortcut to I-95, although some commuters may use it as such.

Aside from the improved access that the new Route 43 provides, possibly its greater value is the image it presents of White Marsh. From this new tree-lined thoroughfare, the community looks like. . . well, Owings Mills. The roadway passes fashionable townhouse and condo communities, a huge, new BJ's Wholesale Club warehouse store and then heads toward White Marsh Mall, looming like Oz in the distance. The previous west-side approach to White Marsh forced you to drive through a neighborhood before dumping you at what felt like the mall's loading dock.

This is only one piece of the northeast transportation puzzle, though. Plans call for the extension of Route 43 east of White Marsh to Eastern Boulevard, linking the town center to MARC service. Another vision: linking the eventual Johns Hopkins Hospital terminus of the Metro to a light-rail line ending at White Marsh. Pipe dreams? Perhaps. But if they come to pass, with aid from a renewed federal mass transit push, they would greatly benefit Baltimore County. The county has capitalized on its location along I-95 to a much lesser degree than its neighbors in Howard and Harford counties.

Saddled with increasing social ills and a cash-flow problem to boot, increasingly urban Baltimore County often seems more pre-occupied with its weaknesses these days. This road, however, points to a strength. Like Mrs. Smothers must have realized, Baltimore County would do well to encourage both her sons.

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