Board to vote on funds to extend Key Highway

Work will start this year on project, officials say

January 08, 2003|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

After a quarter-century of delays, Baltimore officials are promising to start construction this year on an extension of Key Highway along the waterfront to an office complex and an industrial area in Locust Point.

The city's Board of Estimates is scheduled to vote this morning on the approval of $5 million toward the $10 million project. The state has also pledged $5 million.

If the board approves the money, as expected, the quarter-mile stretch of two-lane highway will be built this year from the end of Key Highway, near the Domino Sugar plant, through a rail yard, to Nicholson and Hull streets, beside the new Tide Point office complex, according to officials with the city Department of Transportation.

The road, which would take at least a year to build, is meant to divert industrial truck traffic and cars heading to the Tide Point offices away from the neighborhood's residential streets, where people have long complained about noise and congestion.

"It would be a great victory to finally have this built," said developer C. William Struever, whose company opened the Tide Point office complex in a former Proctor & Gamble soap plant. "This will make the streets safer and substantially reduce traffic through the neighborhood."

The road will also make it easier for the tenants of Tide Point, including General Fiber Communications and Mercy Health Services, to drive to the office complex from Key Highway. Costs on the project beyond the $10 million target will be paid by Struever's company, according to an agreement with the city.

Betty Macioch, a member of the board of the Locust Point Civic Association, said she would be elated to see the road built after years of delays, but she is skeptical that the city will keep its promises.

"We have heard several times that this project was going to start, but then it hasn't," said Macioch. "We'd be happy if they'd start tomorrow. ... It will get a lot of traffic off of our streets."

Fred Marc, engineering division chief with the city's Department of Transportation, said yesterday that one problem remains: the design of a crossing over train tracks owned by the CSX Corp. that run into the Domino Sugar plant.

The city plans to engineer a gate system that will periodically halt traffic on Key Highway so that trains and trucks carrying supplies to the sugar plant will be able to get through, Marc said.

"We are committed to having construction started by the end of the year. ... But [the crossing] is still an issue," said Marc. "We are still trying to work it out with Domino, because they don't want their trains and truck traffic shut down."

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