Westport is an option as a Greyhound site

Good access: Bus station would be within sight of downtown, near light rail and interstates.

January 06, 2002

MAYOR MARTIN O'Malley's last-minute welshing has put Greyhound in a difficult bind: The bus line will soon be kicked out of its Fayette Street terminal.

All operations will move to East Baltimore's Travel Plaza, but the company still wants and needs to build a new station closer to downtown.

So far, no one has offered a viable alternative location. Not Mayor O'Malley, or the neighborhood or business interests that pressured him to kill the planned terminal next to Penn Station.

After Greyhound's lease expires, the Travel Plaza will have to do as a stopgap solution. But that terminal is not a long-term answer. It's too distant from downtown, too difficult to find. Talk about frequent shuttles from the city center is just a red herring offered by Penn Station opponents; they surely will not pay for it.

To work out this dilemma, Greyhound, with the O'Malley administration's determined assistance, should look at Westport, a run-down semi-industrial area near the intersection of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Interstate 95. It's ripe for redevelopment, a destitute area filled with abandoned or unused industrial hulks. With some investment, it could be made into a true gateway to Baltimore.

Access is great; light rail is nearby. And while the area is not in the center of the city, it is within sight of the two stadiums and downtown skyscrapers. Shuttles could easily be arranged.

Just a year ago, we urged that the O'Malley administration look at Westport and the Travel Plaza -- instead of the Inner Harbor -- as locations for new visitors' centers.

The rationale for this suggestion was that if the city wants to increase tourism, it should catch would-be visitors before they drive by. Once they are in the Inner Harbor, they'll find their way. You only need a kiosk there.

Unfortunately, this idea got nowhere, because the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association wasn't interested.

A welcome center could still fit in with a new bus station as part of a wider redevelopment plan. After all, the Westport area has so much unused land, it's ideal for satellite parking of cars and could accommodate tour buses.

Another element of the redevelopment plan could be budget hotels, which might even offer water views of the Middle Branch.

There is no perfect site for the new Greyhound bus terminal. But Mayor O'Malley owes it to Greyhound to offer a realistic alternative to the Penn Station site he nixed a few weeks ago.

He ought to consider Westport -- and do it soon, for Greyhound's benefit.

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