Greyhound lobbies for new downtown site

Bus line president meets with Cummings, council

Risks losing $5 million

Mayor no longer supports terminal near Penn Station

January 13, 2003|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

A year after Mayor Martin O'Malley put the brakes on plans for a new bus terminal near Penn Station, the head of Greyhound Lines is appealing to city politicians for help finding a new location in or near downtown.

Craig Lentzsch, president of Greyhound, stressed the importance of maintaining a downtown location in a meeting with Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, City Council members and business leaders.

Greyhound has an agreement to operate its terminal on West Fayette Street for the next three years, but the landlord has the right to cancel the lease with six months' notice, Lentzsch said. The company risks losing about $5 million in federal funding for a new terminal if the project continues to stall, he said.

"We are advocating a public process to identify a site that works for everybody," he said. "We're trying to gain support for such a process."

Greyhound buses also stop at the Baltimore Travel Plaza on O'Donnell Street, near Interstate 95, where the bus company has a five-year lease. But Lentzsch said that location is too small and too remote to serve as a main Baltimore terminal. "I would have customers paying more for the cab [to downtown] than they are for the bus," he said.

Cummings and Council President Sheila Dixon said they emerged from the meeting Friday at the Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor Hotel determined to help.

"We've got to move this project and make it happen," Cummings said. "... Greyhound cannot stay where they are. We've got work to do. I think the ball is in our court."

Dixon said the city and the Maryland Transit Administration need to identify sites for the company -- a process that the Baltimore Development Corp. apparently has begun.

"We need to get moving and not act like a bureaucracy that's dragging things out," she said.

Dixon and Cummings said officials with the BDC, the city's quasi-public economic development arm, announced at the meeting that they had conducted their own study of possible sites on Russell Street.

The locations were not specified, but presumably they include the area south of Ravens Stadium where Russell Street intersects with a light rail line, Cummings said.

BDC officials could not be reached for comment. O'Malley, who did not attend the meeting, also could not be reached.

The O'Malley administration initially supported a proposed terminal and 325-car parking garage near Penn Station. The $16 million Baltimore Transportation Center, to be built with $11 million in city and federal funds, was to be completed this coming summer on what is now a parking lot on Lanvale Street between St. Paul and Charles streets.

O'Malley had called the location "the best site in the city" because passengers could easily connect to trains, buses and taxis.

But in December 2001, the mayor abruptly changed course after business interests led by Peter G. Angelos rallied against the location.

Opponents argued that the terminal would bring loiterers, traffic congestion and pollution to a part of the city trying to make a comeback.

Greyhound officials contended that the terminal would be an asset to the area, in part because the nearly 1.5 million bus passengers who pass through the city each year would patronize area businesses.

Greyhound needs to build an "intermodal facility" -- one that connects buses with trains, light rail or other modes of travel -- to retain federal funding that Cummings helped line up for the project several years ago, the congressman said.

The project was awarded $6 million in federal funds, and about $1 million of that was spent planning the Penn Station site, Lentzsch said. The remaining $5 million might have to be returned if the project does not move ahead, though there is no specific deadline, Lentzsch said.

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