Mayor puts IndyCars over snow plows

February 02, 2011

When the mayor summons her best and brightest transportation officials, it isn't for an update on snow removal in the neighborhoods, to discuss technology and workflows that would enable more efficient service delivery, or even to check the status of the backlog of projects citywide. Rather, it's to find out if her $8 million race track is on schedule for Labor Day.

Baltimore is spending the bulk of its transportation stimulus funds on Pratt and Light streets — not to make them more attractive gateways to the Inner Harbor but to create a race course so Baltimore Racing Development can hold an IndyCar race. The state is helping with a loan and another $1.5 million project to create a "pit area" at Camden Yards. Top engineers at the Maryland Transit Administration are working feverishly to fix the Light Rail on Howard Street to smooth out the tracks to a profile that works better for race cars, and dozens of trees have been cut down to make way for the expected crush of race fans. This not only robs neighborhoods and commuters of funding that should have gone to long overdue capital projects, but it also has city leadership so preoccupied that they're not able to focus on other things — like the needs of residents.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake insists that IndyCar racing will "put Baltimore in the national spotlight," and I certainly hope so because in the mean time, downtown has been gripped by months of construction related frustration, and the rest of the city can't get City Hall to return our calls.

Mark Counselman, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Oakenshawe Improvement Association.

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