Unchoking Midtown

Timely plan: Mount Vernon, Bolton Hill, Charles North, Madison Park propose new traffic patterns.

September 19, 2000

WHY IS THE NEW Midtown Community Plan a must-read document?

Because it challenges all the traffic arrangements that have choked the Charles, St. Paul and Calvert Street corridors since the 1950s. And because it proposes radically different traffic patterns to make the area more livable.

The Midtown Community Plan, drafted by Charles B. Duff Jr., recommends de-emphasizing St. Paul street as a southbound thoroughfare. Instead, it spells out ways to use the Jones Falls Expressway more efficiently and seeks to divert more downtown-bound commuter traffic to Guilford and Greenmount avenues.

The plan also urges that all buses be eliminated from Calvert Street.

Those thoroughfares were already one-way streets in 1953, when Baltimore hired Henry A. Barnes to re-engineer downtown traffic. He changed the direction of Calvert, St. Paul and Charles streets and bequeathed the system that exists now.

While the Midtown plan wouldn't junk that concept, it urges the abandonment of smaller one-way streets within neighborhoods.

These provocative ideas merit serious consideration.

The Midtown plan comes at an opportune time. Bolton Hill is thriving. The newly constructed Spicer's Run townhouses are tidying up the corner at Eutaw street and North Avenue. The infusion of new homeowners should strengthen nearby Madison Park.

After decades of decline, Mount Vernon also is coming back. Among notable improvements is money manager Eddie Brown's recent renovation of a mansion at Calvert and Biddle streets.

The surrounding streets contain many other architectural gems and were desirable addresses until post-World War II suburbanization and traffic congestion led to the area's deterioration.

The Midtown plan sketches ways to revitalize the neighborhood, including a concentrated reinvestment drive. No quick reversal of the area's fortunes is likely, though, until the noise and pollution of traffic congestion are addressed.

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