Transportation plan needs to be redrawn

November 24, 1998|By Alfred W. Barry III

TODAY, Baltimore-area leaders are to officially approve a $16 billion plan for highway and transit projects that will increase sprawl, double traffic congestion, erode transit ridership and worsen air and water pollution.

The plan, which is to receive final approval from the Transportation Steering Committee of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the regional planning organization that drafted it, should be redrawn immediately.

"We cannot build ourselves out of [congestion]," said Harvey S. Bloom, the BMC's transportation planning director, in a Sun story last week. But that's what this plan, "Outlook 2020," proposes.

Instead of adopting this flawed plan, area elected officials should listen to the proposals of TSC's own citizen's advisory committee and the Baltimore Regional Partnership, a coalition of area groups.

To reduce sprawl and congestion, the Baltimore region needs a transportation plan that addresses short-term traffic concerns and provides long-term land-use solutions. Here are some suggestions: Maintain and improve existing transportation infrastructure, including providing sufficient funds for MARC trains.

Create transit hubs that make moving from buses to other public transportation an efficient process -- no long waits for buses. This should include extending the northeast branch of Baltimore's subway line from Johns Hopkins Hospital to near Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Establish carpool lanes, where commuters would pay a toll to travel in a fast lane during rush hour. Some cities are experimenting with a computerized system for such lanes so there's no stopping to pay tolls.

Scrap the planned $200 million expansion of Route 32 through Howard and Carroll counties. TSC's own report says there's no congestion in this area now. This will foster more sprawl development in the region's outer suburbs, exacerbating traffic and pollution problems.

Why do our elected officials support a plan that won't work? Mr. Bloom acknowledged as much in his interview with The Sun, saying until the public demonstrates it wants more controlled growth, transportation plans must be based on existing trends, rather than desired changes.

There could hardly be a starker example of a leadership vacuum on this issue.

Alfred W. Barry III, a former city planner, is chairman of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association's Committee on the Region.

Pub Date: 11/24/98

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