MTA halts center plan for Towson Need for transit site to be reconsidered BALTIMORE COUNTY

April 29, 1993|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

The Mass Transit Administration has hit the brakes again on plans to build its long-debated transit center at the intersection of York, Dulaney Valley and Joppa roads in Towson.

John A. Agro Jr., the MTA's acting director, said yesterday that land acquisition at the never-popular "crossroads" site has been halted. Two alternative sites are being reconsidered in the wake of meetings with state legislators and County Executive Roger B. Hayden.

But officials still have questions about those alternatives, and about whether the $4 million transit center still makes sense anywhere in Towson.

"It sounds like a very expensive project with marginal benefits," said Del. Gerry L. Brewster. "We may be better off without it altogether."

Mr. Agro seemed willing to consider that alternative, as well.

"A transit center is the kind of project where we want to assure that we have a lot of community support," Mr. Agro said. "If we don't get that support, it's not the kind of project the MTA would want to impose on any community."

The alternative locations have been considered before. They include:

* The 1-acre lot at the southwest corner of York Road and Washington Avenue. Now a parking lot, the property is owned by Nottingham Properties Inc. of Towson.

* A grassy, 1.3-acre strip of county-owned land along the south side of Towsontown Boulevard, just west of York Road.

Mr. Brewster, a Democrat, said no transit center in Towson will ease congestion or help the county meet federal Clean Air Act goals unless it provides a link to light rail and ample parking to encourage people to use mass transit.

Of the three sites now under consideration, only the Washington Avenue property meets those criteria, he said, "but it would probably be too expensive for the marginal benefit of this project."

Mr. Agro said, "We are still in the review and evaluation stage of this project. Until I bring all parties together, we will not make a final decision." He expects that to happen by summer.

The state has already spent $530,000 -- 80 percent of which is federal money -- on land acquisition at the crossroads site. If another location is chosen, Mr. Agro said, the MTA will sell the parcel it already owns and use the money for other capital programs.

The MTA still regards the triangular crossroads property as "a very good location for a transit center in Towson," Mr. Agro said.

Towson retailers, developers and community organizations, County Councilman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, and Towson's legislative delegation have all lined up against the crossroads site, saying it's too small and congested. Their unanimity has apparently convinced Mr. Hayden not to push it further.

Mr. Riley said he and others now hope the state would use the land to reconstruct and improve the congested intersection.

"I'm excited," Mr. Riley said. "Rarely do you get the opportunity to step back after the wheels of government start moving and say, 'Let's think this thing through again.'"

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