Governor O'Malley Breaks Ground on Removal of West Baltimore's 'Highway to Nowhere'
MARC Station improvement plan reunites West Baltimore communities
BALTIMORE, MD (September 10, 2010) – Joined by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, other local officials, community leaders, and construction workers, Governor Martin O’Malley today broke ground on the demolition of a segment of Baltimore’s infamous “Highway to Nowhere” to make way for an expansion of parking at the West Baltimore MARC Station. The demolition of the roadway will reunite the communities of West Baltimore that have been physically separated since the highway’s construction in the early 1970’s. The full improvement project is scheduled for completion in fall of 2010. Demolition of the “Highway to Nowhere” will support 35 jobs.
"You can win if you stand up for what you believe in, and that's what we did when we stopped the Highway to Nowhere from barreling through the Inner Harbor and Fells Point," Senator Mikulski said. "Tearing down every last remnant of that ill-fated road will help heal the communities that have long been split by the portion of highway that we couldn't stop. Today's demolition is an important first step in bringing these communities back together and ridding West Baltimore of this major eyesore. I fought that road. And I've been fighting for Maryland ever since."
“The communities of West Baltimore have been frustrated and divided by this concrete wall for nearly four decades,” said Governor O’Malley. “It is time to remove the unnecessary divider, reunite communities and make neighborhood-friendly improvements to the MARC station while creating jobs. With the Red Line and our transit oriented development vision for the area moving forward, the future of West Baltimore holds great promise.”
Nearly 700 homes were taken, displacing working-class families, by the time construction of what was known as I-170 got underway in 1974. Public opposition by civil rights leaders, community activists and others to a network of urban highways that were planned to cut through the city eventually stopped construction of I-170 but not before a 1.4 mile section was completed through West Baltimore. Today, the roadway is marked as US 40 with roughly one mile open to the public leading eastward to Martin Luther King Boulevard.
“In the coming months, an artificial barrier to the progress of communities in West Baltimore will be removed forever,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “Once cleared of this blight, we can begin the dramatic renewal and transformation that will make these neighborhoods better, safer and stronger.”
The West Baltimore MARC Station improvement project consists of two phases. Phase I involves the $2.8 million demolition of the “Highway to Nowhere” between Fulton Avenue and Pulaski Street, including ramps, pavement and the retaining walls. Phase I is funded by President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Design of the demolition project was funded by the City of Baltimore at a cost of approximately $100,000. Demolition will be completed in Summer 2011.
Phase II of the project valued at $6.1 million involves the construction of two new parking lots from Pulaski Street to Monroe Street providing an additional 335 parking spaces, doubling the total number of parking spaces available to 660. The parking expansion project will also accommodate the future Red Line as well as transit-oriented development in the area. West Baltimore will be a key stop on the 14-mile Red Line that will operate between Woodlawn and Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Transit oriented development is envisioned for areas adjacent to the West Baltimore MARC station. The current West Baltimore MARC Station was constructed in the early 1980’s. It serves more than 700 MARC passengers a day, exceeding the capacity of the current parking lot.
An important component of Phase II will be the reconnection of Payson Street between West Franklin and West Mulberry Streets. Payson Street has been blocked by the “Highway to Nowhere” since its construction, restricting pedestrian and vehicle access between communities. The Payson Street reconnection and the construction of the additional parking areas will include pedestrian-friendly features such as landscaping and ornamental fencing and will be coordinated with the City of Baltimore’s Pulaski Street streetscape project. A goal of the project is to connect with the surrounding neighborhoods and create a space that beautifies the area. Adjacent neighborhoods include Midtown-Edmondson, Penrose, Rosemont, Evergreen Lawn, Bridgeview/Greenlawn, Mosher, Harlem Park, Franklin Square, Boyd-Booth and Shipley Hill.
Consistent with the Red Line Community Compact signed by MTA, Baltimore City and many community organizations, MTA is taking preventative measures to ensure the safe travel of people and vehicles throughout the area during the demolition process. Demolition work will be restricted to ensure limited disruptions for the surrounding communities. No demolition work will be allowed after 8 PM or before 7 AM on weekdays. Saturday work will be limited to the hours between 8 AM and 4 PM. No Sunday demolition work will be allowed. No contractor parking will be allowed on neighborhood streets. Contractor vehicles will access the work site via the closed US 40 westbound bypass at Martin Luther King Blvd.
Traffic on westbound US 40 will be diverted to Franklin Street for the 10-month duration of demolition work. Eastbound US 40 traffic will be diverted to Mulberry Street for the final two to three months of demolition. Access to the existing parking lots and bus service in the area will be maintained. Community events will continue as planned, including the Farmer’s Market. However, some of the area roadway and sidewalk closures may result in new, temporary access points to those events. Signs will be posted to direct people to these access points at the MARC station parking lots.
Further information and updates are available on the project website, www.wbmarcproject.com.