Bid to improve Boston St. splits community groups

October 31, 1993|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer

Proposals to upgrade Boston Street from Fells Point to Canton, including one to widen the bumpy four-lane thoroughfare to six lanes, have sparked conflict among Southeast Baltimore community groups.

Fells Point residents and business owners worry that traffic from a widened Boston Street will bottleneck at the entrance to their historic neighborhood.

A Canton watchdog group worries that a wider street may be a waste of money when mass transit alternatives have not been explored.

And newcomers to the Canton area, who purchased expensive waterfront homes, believe widening Boston Street, from Chester to Conkling streets, is long overdue.

Officials at the Interstate Division for Baltimore City asked for comments at a recent public hearing on the five proposals for the one-mile stretch of Boston Street that runs along the waterfront. Any road building would be financed by the Federal Highway Administration.

Officials are considering the proposals because studies show the volume of traffic on Boston Street is expected to double by 2015 because of residential development along the Canton waterfront.

The five proposals and their costs are:

* Doing nothing at no cost.

* Rebuilding the road at its current width, $8.6 million.

* Rebuilding the road at its current width and enhancing intersections of other east-west streets, $8.8 million. The proposal does not name the streets.

* Rebuilding and widening the road to include four lanes of traffic, a center turn lane and two permanent parking lanes, $14.7 million

* Rebuilding and widening the road to include six lanes of traffic, $14.6 million.

Officials will decide which proposal to recommend to the Federal Highway Administration by the end of the year, said Faysal Thameen, chief of the interstate division.

No residents or businesses would be displaced under any of the proposals because the city owns most of the land needed for widening the road, officials said.

In an interview last week, Dr. Selvin Passen, president of the Anchorage Tower Condominium Association, who moved to the waterfront high-rise five years ago, said condominium owners look forward to a wider, rebuilt Boston Street, though six lanes may be unnecessary.

"A lot of us bought there with the basic idea that they were going to put a boulevard in," he said. "They enticed a lot of us from Baltimore County. We've been down there for five years, and nothing's gotten done.

"Four-lane streets with two lanes of traffic and two of parking is totally inadequate," he said of the current street.

"During peak traffic times, you can't see everything that's coming because of parking on the street," Dr. Passen said, adding that the quality of the street -- with potholes and exposed railroad tracks -- "is terrible."

Tom Durel, president of the Fells Point Homeowners Association, said that although the proposals affect Boston Street in Canton, widening the road could seriously affect his neighborhood to the west.

"It clearly has a significant impact on our streets. We are concerned that if too much [traffic] is on Boston Street, how does it dissipate once it gets to Fells Point?"

He said he is worried the city will make Aliceanna and Fleet streets -- which now run east-west -- one-way to carry the heavy load of traffic in and out of Fells Point, making it more difficult to get to local businesses.

Roland Daniels, president of the Canton Square Homeowners Association, north of Boston Street in Canton, said his group is more concerned about getting the road rebuilt and retaining access to the waterfront than having it widened.

Carolyn Boitnott, a member of the Waterfront Coalition -- a watchdog group of communities concerned about overdevelopment of the waterfront -- said the group would like to see the road rebuilt but not widened.

She criticized the city for not considering alternative methods of transportation, such as trolleys, light rail, or even bicycle paths.

"This does not do anything but move people in cars," Ms. Boitnott said of the proposals to improve Boston Street.

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