City prepares to divert traffic for Charles Street construction

May 09, 2000|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley unveiled yesterday signs to help guide traffic around the closed Charles Street bridge for a two-year, $23 million construction project that local business owners worry will discourage their customers.

The signs will feature a pudgy-cheeked, cross-eyed construction worker wearing a gray tuxedo and scarlet bow tie to lead drivers through a detour to such cultural institutions as the Charles Theater, Everyman Theatre and Club Charles.

"Just as nobody told [President Harry S.] Truman about the atomic bomb before he took office, nobody told me that the city would be closing Charles Street before I took office," O'Malley joked during a morning news conference at Charles Street and Mount Royal Avenue yesterday.

"I know it will cause some inconvenience. But we want to make it as painless as possible," he said.

The city is rebuilding the 1910 bridge over the Amtrak train lines because it is crumbling. Workers also are building a new entrance to Penn Station from Charles Street and a northbound ramp onto Interstate 83 from the train station.

Charles Street, which connects the Inner Harbor to North Baltimore, will be closed from Mount Royal Avenue to Lanvale Street for 26 months starting Monday, city officials said.

Northbound drivers on the one-way street will have a choice of two routes around the Penn Station construction site. They can head west on Mount Royal Avenue, north on Maryland Avenue and east on Lanvale Street or Lafayette Avenue. Or they can head east on Biddle Street, north on Calvert Street and west on 20th Street.

Buzz Cusack, an owner of the Charles Theatre at 1711 N. Charles St., which underwent a $1.6 million expansion a year ago, said he expects the road closing to hurt his business as it helps the city in the long run.

"This project will be a tremendous enhancement for the train station and the whole city," said Cusack. "But it may be tough for us. I expect we'll make the best we can of a difficult situation."

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