City Finds Key To Federal Vault


July 22, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

Nearly two years after Congress established a new source of funds to improve transportation planning and rebuild the nation's infrastructure, Maryland's largest city is finally positioning itself to take full advantage of it.

Baltimore is the site of three of the five local "transportation enhancement" projects that won funding last month. Recipients are the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the Baltimore City Life Museums and the Baltimore Harbor Endowment.

The source of funds is the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, which authorized the expenditure of up to $151 billion nationwide for infrastructure improvements.

Covering a six-year period from 1992 to 1997, the authorization provides funds not only for road construction and mass transit but also for nontraditional projects that add cultural, aesthetic and environmental value to the transportation system. They include greenways, bike paths, nature trails, landscaping, archaeology and historic preservation.

Maryland is due to receive approximately $250 million to $300 million a year in federal funds for transportation projects of all kinds. According to federal regulations, Maryland must set aside about $5 million in federal funds annually for "enhancements" such as preservation. (Eighty percent of the amount allocated for any project actually comes from the federal government, 20 percent from the state.)

Under Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer, Maryland has been a national leader in proposing creative ways to tap the new funding source. Early projects ranged from archaeological research in St. Mary's City to partial renovation of Cumberland's Western Maryland Railroad station.

For a while, Baltimore seemed to be lagging behind other jurisdictions in obtaining enhancement dollars. Before June, the

only funds targeted for Baltimore were $450,000 to convert the President Street train station to a museum, $160,000 to prepare a master plan for the B&O Railroad Museum and $440,000 to build a recreational trail within the Gwynns Falls park system.

But last month, Baltimore received another $750,000 for three new projects -- far more than any other part of Maryland. The largest award was $350,000 to help the Baltimore Museum of Industry at 1415 Key Highway buy a three-story office building from Bethlehem Steel Corp. The museum staff plans to move its offices there, freeing space in the current building. The money will also be used to create a southern terminus for the Inner Harbor promenade and to build a pavilion for the museum's outdoor events.

Other Baltimore awards were $210,000 for landscaping of two blocks of Albemarle Street near Museum Row and $190,000 to the harbor endowment for the landscaping of Harris Creek Park near Boston Street and completion of other segments of the harbor promenade.

Many other potential city projects might be able to use funds from this program.

The former Greyhound bus garage on Centre Street is one candidate. A local group has proposed to turn the city-owned building into a museum and community meeting place but has not raised the money needed to begin reconstruction.

A city-owned warehouse on Key Highway, where the League of American Wheelmen wants to build a $9 million National Bicycling Museum and Resource Center, should be another strong contender. Other potential uses include repainting historic bridges, planting trees along major arteries, reconstructing the inside of Camden Station and landscaping Market Place.

According to Lucy Garliauskas, chief of statewide and intermodal planning for the State Highway Administration, Maryland officials have earmarked all of the money available for fiscal years 1992 and 1993 -- about $12 million. They are now reviewing applications for the year that began July 1, and will announce more funding decisions in September.

Golden years

Nearly a decade after stepping down as chairman of Baltimore's redevelopment agency, Walter Sondheim Jr. heads the state's Higher Education Commission and Open Meetings Compliance Board. He also serves as interim head of the Greater Baltimore Committee. On Sunday, if he can squeeze it in, he'll celebrate his 85th birthday.


Baltimore Museum of Industry is buying the building at right. Maryland officials earmarked more than $1 million last month for "transportation enhancement" projects:

* South Baltimore -- $350,000 to help the Baltimore Museum of Industry acquire a three-story waterfront building and complete the southern terminus of the Inner Harbor pedestrian promenade.

* Easton -- $220,000 to convert former rail corridor through heart of Easton into 2.25-mile hiking/biking trail.

* Downtown Baltimore -- $210,000 to landscape a two-block stretch of Albemarle Street near Museum Row. Project considered "scenic improvement" for nearby Shot Tower Metro Station.

* Canton -- $190,000 to finish parts of Inner Harbor promenade, landscape Harris Creek Park near Boston Street.

* Perryville -- $75,000 to help the town acquire the historic Rodgers Tavern, a ferry crossing point for the Susquehanna River since 1695, for use as a visitors center.

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