In response to growth in Harbor East, Fells Point, Brewers Hill and Canton, City Councilman James B. Kraft is seeking near-crisis relief for mounting traffic woes on the city’s southeastern side.
He said Monday that he is lobbying City Hall and local business owners for an extension of the Charm City Circulator to Canton Crossing and recently won the backing of the mayor to expedite two major road improvement projects there —widening Boston Street and realigning Haven Street.
“We’ve had a lot of problems with the roads, and you can see the stuff we’ve got with the grid,” Kraft said of the daily traffic woes along Aliceanna and Boston streets. “There’s nothing surprising in it — it just shows failing intersection after failing intersection after failing intersection.”
The Oct. 8 opening of portions of the Canton Crossing retail and restaurant development at 3501 Boston St. stepped up the gridlock problems in the area to near-record proportions, Kraft said.
In a Nov. 14 letter to his District 1 constituents, he said he had met with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and received her endorsement to move up two planned road projects in the Canton area beginning with the realignment of Haven Street around a set of heavily used train tracks so railroad delays won’t impede traffic. That project is expected to be completed within 12 to 24 months, less than the original three-year time frame, he said.
Another plan, to widen Boston Street, will be moved up by one year, expected to be completed in 2015.
Kraft is also seeking a new traffic study to be compiled by the city’s Department of Transportation in the area and extension of the Circulator from Harbor East to Canton Crossing.
“These are major changes in the whole situation there, and they will make a tremendous difference,” he said.
Adding a new leg to the Orange Route of the Charm City Circulator to Canton Crossing would cost about $2 million each year, Kraft said. Those funds would have to come from city parking tax revenues and private business donations. The city currently pays $5.5 million from those tax revenues toward the Circulator.
Also, two additional buses may have to be purchased and operated — at an annual operational cost of $350,000 each — to keep the route flowing at the present scheduled 10-minute intervals.
The free Circulator thus far has attracted 13 million riders this year, said Kathy Chopper, a spokeswoman with the city’s Department of Transportation, which operates the service in partnership with Veolia Transportation.
A proposal to extend the Circulator’s Purple Route from Penn Station to University Parkway near the Johns Hopkins University would require two new buses and total $750,000 annually, Chopper said. Extending service from Harbor East to Canton Crossing would “take a minimum of two additional buses,” she said in an email.
Kraft’s letter said he had opened discussions with Canton-area business owners “in an effort to secure matching funds for the creation of a Charm City Circulator route along the Boston Street corridor” to help fund the extension.
“It’s about getting people out of their cars and moving them efficiently,” Kraft said on Monday, adding that a possible park-and-ride commuter lot could be added near Interstate 95 close to Canton Crossing if the Circulator line is extended to help alleviate the need to drive into downtown for some workers.
The constituents’ letter said that the “myriad of problems” with traffic congestion in Southeast Baltimore are based on ongoing residential and business complaints and continuing discussions.
“Those discussions have included, but have not been limited to, the following items: the completion of the much-needed new Southeast traffic study, particularly looking at the Aliceanna-Boston Street corridor; the installation of traffic calming devices and other improvements at the Eastern Avenue-Exeter Street intersection; the extension of the Charm City Circulator into Canton; the development of a traffic management plan for school hours at Hampstead Hill Academy; the required condemnation and franchise ordinances for the construction of the Red Line,” Kraft’s letter said.
“All of this has made it all the more important that the administration step up its efforts and accelerate its schedules to help us in our efforts to move people and cars more efficiently about and around Southeast.”