JFX not coming down soon

Pulling down Interstate 83 and turning it into a boulevard may help with the revitalization of Old Town Mall, but it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

Brenda McKenzie, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corp., said although the idea was included in plans put together about a decade ago to revitalize the historic East Baltimore shopping district, it’s not part of the current efforts to breathe new life into the site.

“Obviously we’re open to creative thoughts, [pulling down the Jones Falls Expressway] from a financial perspective, might be a bigger lift then were able to do at this point in time,” McKenzie said. “But certainly do welcome creativity in figuring out how best to activate Old Town.”

Al Barry, owner of land use consultation firm AB Associates and a former assistant planning director for the city, previously told The Daily Record that pulling down the elevated highway would help in revitalizing the Old Town Mall.

In fact he argued pulling down the highway may be necessary because of money.

“At some point, the city is going to have to face that fact and begin some strategic planning as to when the expressway should come down, because at some point it has to come down because they can’t afford to rebuild it,” Barry said earlier in April.

Throughout the world cities have started to replace urban highways with more pedestrian and bicycle friendly boulevards that better link portions of cities that highways can isolate from one another.

The Atlantic Cities, in a post last week, detailed how such diverse urban areas as Seoul, South Korea and Milwaukee have started to remove highways in the city.

One comment

  1. I like the idea of a more open boulevard concept. I think it would open a link between Mount Vernon and the Old Town Mall area. Currently the JFX is something of a barrier between communities. Notwithstanding, the money issue is quite apparent here. Take a look at our city streets and you’ll notice that the city infrastructure is well under-funded. The JFX itself still has some of the original signage, and is marred with cracks and potholes. In stark contrast, the highway north of the city line is smooth and has modern retroreflective signage. Clearly the city lacks funding for highway maintenance, and so expecting this kind of drastic change in the near future is nothing but a pipe dream. The best hope the city should have would be that the SHA would assume maintenance of the JFX in the city, upgrade the signage, and then consider removing the elevated portion on the state’s dime.