Barrier replaces barges in harbor

Steel pilings to protect Baltimore's trade center

April 15, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Work began over the weekend on erecting a buffer of steel pilings as harbor-side protection for Baltimore's World Trade Center, replacing four Army barges that had served the purpose since shortly after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.

The Maryland Port Administration had the barges removed Friday. They had been used as a 75-foot buffer zone that had been recommended by the FBI - before Sept. 11, when passenger jets commandeered by terrorists hit New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon - to protect the 30-story building from waterborne attack.

Yesterday, workers continued installing the 12 steel pilings that will form a V-shaped buffer zone on the harbor side of the pentagonal, 423-foot building. The project is expected to be completed early this week, said Kate Philips, spokeswoman for the port administration, which owns and manages the building.

Philips said the pilings were installed to address concerns of Inner Harbor paddle boat operators who felt the gray barges would obstruct their view of people using their equipment during the summer. The security change will also be more pleasing visually, she added.

"This does what the barges were doing, but aesthetically, it changes the look," Philips said of the buffer, which is estimated to cost from $10,000 to $15,000. "It keeps the zone intact if anyone were to come at the building. It also gives the paddle boats more mobility and visibility. They won't have to go around the barges."

The steel piling buffer is an "interim solution," Philips said, adding that representatives from the state, city, Greater Baltimore Committee, National Aquarium, Cordish Co. and Living Classrooms Foundation are discussing a permanent solution.

In December, the port administration had proposed building a $1.2 million footbridge over the Inner Harbor to protect the tower, but Mayor Martin O'Malley opposed the idea, saying it would "clutter up the harbor."

State officials have said the bridge is still a possibility.

Driving clusters of pilings in the water around the building was one of three alternatives suggested by O'Malley as alternatives. Others were a fountain whose underwater apparatus could stop an approaching boat, and renaming the building to reduce attention to it.

The barges were one of several security measures put in place around the perimeter of the tower after Sept. 11. Maryland officials had closed the tower about two hours after the two hijacked airplanes hit New York's World Trade Center on Sept. 11 because of what they termed "credible" information that it, too, was a target.

The building's Top of the World observation deck reopened to the public this month, with heightened security.

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