Field trip to Owings Mills' green, open spaces impresses Japanese transportation experts

March 21, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

A group of Japanese transportation experts on an international field trip yesterday toured Owings Mills and marveled at nature where Americans see high growth.

"The use of open areas, green spaces we feel envious of that," said Keizo Murakami, a journalist and a Tokyo University professor who led 20 highway builders and planners for a look at an American "edge city."

"If we ever create an area like that, we would like to have open space. Probably, we can't have that, but we'll try to have as much as possible," he said, adding that he was impressed by the "the harmony between humans and nature and space."

Mr. Murakami and his colleagues from a think tank called the Human Road Forum dropped in for a look at Owings Mills as part of their two-week tour of American cities. Looking for ideas, they have visited New York and New Jersey Port Authority projects, and have inspected highway projects in Boston. Next stops: Miami and San Francisco.

For a model edge city or planned suburban growth center they settled on Owings Mills, one of Baltimore County's two growth zones. The county has designated Owings Mills and White Marsh as areas where it is encouraging growth through zoning and road construction, among other policies.

The Japanese group selected the Owings Mills after an advance man for the tour ran across a report on Owings Mills' growth strategies on the Internet.

"They were just trying to get an idea of what an edge city would look like," said J. John "Jack" Dillon, a recently retired Baltimore County planner who conducted the tour. "They're intrigued by the approach and the problems you have in terms of that kind of development."

Indeed, the tour group seemed nonplused at times. Accustomed to their densely populated island nation, the Japanese visitors were surprised to find the Owings Mills Metro station virtually empty at late morning.

"It's not like Japan," Mr. Murakami said through a translator. "Sometimes we have to push people into the trains."

County officials were quick to note he would have seen a crowd during the morning rush hour.

Mr. Murakami said the lessons learned about providing transportation to support growth in Owings Mills might be applied to a proposal to build a new capital city of up to 600,000 residents near crowded Tokyo. Also, he said, some have called for redistribution of the population of the nation's congested cities.

"For that, knowing about Owings Mills will be very helpful," he said, adding that he will lecture and write about his observations when he returns to his homeland.

Pub Date: 3/21/96

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