City set to spend $1 million on study of 'people mover'

January 26, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The city plans to spend about $1 million this year to see if a futuristic transit system of elevated electrical cars -- known as a "people mover" -- would work in downtown Baltimore.

George G. Balog, Baltimore's public works director, said a feasibility study of the people mover first proposed three decades ago -- and now estimated to cost $210 million -- is one of 51 preliminary design projects to be funded by the city this year.

But most of the design projects are on a much smaller scale than the people mover and involve studies that will cost $100,000 to $500,000, he said. The total cost of this year's design program is $17.2 million.

The design program was unveiled Friday.

Design projects funded this year also include a $400,000 traffic study of Howard Street and a $250,000 examination of the city's traffic signals. The infrastructure of Baltimore's water and wastewater systems also will be studied.

City officials are considering sprucing up and widening Howard Street, where the Mass Transit Administration's Central Light Rail line takes up part of the roadway in what was once the heart of the downtown shopping district. Howard Street is open to two-way traffic in some sections and one-way traffic in others.

"We'd like to make [Howard Street] more attractive," Balog said.

But the people mover is the biggest of this year's design projects -- one that Balog said would change the face of downtown Baltimore, giving it a futuristic look.

Preliminary plans show electrical cars running on rail lines about 15 to 20 feet above ground.

The people mover transit line would begin at Camden Station, which would be the stop for Camden Yards and form a connection with light rail and Maryland Rail Commuter trains. It would continue along Conway Street, behind the Baltimore Convention Center, and along a route on the north side of the harbor.

The three-mile line would end at Boston and Clinton streets, with stops in the Inner Harbor, Little Italy, Inner Harbor East, Fells Point and Canton.

Balog said the elevated stops could be incorporated into existing pedestrian bridges and hotels and that the system would not interfere with traffic.

Most of the stops would be simple structures built along the route, he said.

The rail line would cost about $70 million per mile to construct, according to a preliminary study conducted by an engineering firm. The city is seeking more than $200 million in federal funding for the project, Balog said.

The study approved by the city will examine the design, costs and funding options for a system to shuttle people around Baltimore.

"We want to proceed ahead to see if there are any federal funds available for this project," Balog said. "We're going to be looking at location and drafting preliminary designs."

Pub Date: 1/26/98

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