Conway St. construction heads into extra innings Orioles' fans steam

completion date is '97

April 29, 1996|By Will Englund | Will Englund,SUN STAFF

Orioles fans and downtown drivers in general want to know: Will they ever finish Conway Street?

The answer: Sure, but not before Cal Ripken has had a chance to play in his 2,315th consecutive game.

We're talking, in other words, about 1997.

The Convention Center construction project has been doing a number on what once was a no-account little waterfront street and is now one of Baltimore's principal gateways to Oriole Park at Camden Yards and to Interstate 95 and its feeder routes.

By the time the dog days of summer have set in, officials said yesterday, Conway should have its sidewalks back and the street in general should be clearer, even as construction continues. But before the promised land can be reached, the desert must be crossed -- and this particular desert lies just ahead, next month, when construction crews will be closing additional lanes according to a schedule that has not been worked out.

On top of that, police began Saturday to shut off Conway between Sharp Street and the ballpark to all traffic on game days, starting around the seventh inning, so that pedestrians can get away faster. Sgt. Dave Munyan, in charge of the traffic patrol at Camden Yards for yesterday's game, said the move helps the foot traffic clear out much faster and doesn't seem to be bottling up cars or buses too badly.

And if you're not going to the game but need to get to Interstate 95 from downtown? Take Key Highway, he said. "Absolutely the right answer," he said.

But the answer to the question -- Is Conway Street a nightmare or a trifling inconvenience? -- depends on your perspective.

"It's been terrible!" said Rodney Holland, who pedals a pedicab and does a good business taking fares between the harbor and ballpark. "Worse this year than last year. It's just more congested. Just in general, it's pretty unpleasant."

"It was pretty hectic," said Carlos Rodriguez, who drove in from Rosedale yesterday, reached the stadium at 12: 30 p.m. and wasn't able to work his way through traffic and park his car until 1: 20 p.m., just 10 minutes before game time. "And then I paid $10 -- put that in your story," he said.

"It's been a royal pain," said the Rev. Millard Knowles, pastor of DTC the Old Otterbein Methodist Church, which is 225 years old this year and sits on a lot that seems to be right out of the 18th century except that it's surrounded by chain link construction fences, cement mixers and stadium traffic.

"We've been constructed on, on all four sides," he said. "I've got a wedding next Saturday, and I hope we can get a limo up to the building. But the people next door are our friends. When they have to infringe on us, they're gracious about it."

For others, it's hardly worth noticing.

"It's crowded, but we're from Philadelphia, so we're used to it," said Lorae DeVice, who came down with friends on a trip sponsored by a charity that raises money for research into spina bifida.

Their bus dropped them off by Camden Station, and they walked through the crowds to the harbor and back before the game.

"I come for the social part of it," she said. "If we miss the beginning of the game, it's no big deal."

"We come here for the shopping," explained her friend, Angel Vita, "and to go to St. Jude's [shrine, on North Paca Street]."

Conway Street may be a mess at times, but St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, would not seem to be required just now.

Dave Montgomery, head of the city's Bureau of Transportation, said, "We're up and running, getting the traffic out as smooth as possible."

And, indeed, by the time yesterday's game was 15 minutes old, traffic was not a problem.

"You can't even compare it to Memorial Stadium," said Marc Freedman, who has been driving to Orioles games from Arlington, Va., for a good number of years. He figures the trip home after a game is about an hour shorter than it used to be when the Orioles played on 33rd Street.

"If people would just remember the Memorial Stadium days, they'd realize how much smoother this is," said Sergeant Munyan.

The Convention Center construction is the only real problem, he said. "Once they finish that up, we'll be beautiful."

And then they can start building a football stadium.

Pub Date: 4/29/96

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