It was the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association’s first meeting at the South Baltimore Learning Center and the seating capacity was tested on the first night as the new Horseshoe Baltimore Casino was on the agenda. The meeting was packed, filled with Caesars executives, members of the media, concerned residents, developers and local business owners. The State of Maryand was represented by Senator Bill Ferguson and Delegates Brian McHale and Luke Clippinger and the City of Baltimore was represented by Southern District Planner Brent Flickinger, Mary Pat Fannon from the Mayor’s Office of Government Relations and Kim Clark, Vice President of the Baltimore Development Corporation. Representatives were also present from Councilman William Cole and City Council President Jack Young.
The room was filled with some of the biggest decision makers in South Baltimore, but unfortunately most of the questions from the audience were directed at a department that wasn’t present, the Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT). It was clear that the biggest concerns about Horseshoe Baltimore were the increased traffic patterns that the $400 million casino would attract in the area, as well as the proposed closure of Warner St. It also came to light that the DOT has yet to complete a traffic study surrounding the development. A concerned resident questioned, “how is it possible that we have a project of this magnitude, yet there hasn’t even been a traffic study completed yet?” This got the biggest applause of the night. The DOT began a traffic study in 2009 with the prior casino group, but it was never completed as the casino never moved forward.
Frustrations filled the faces of Kim Clark, Mary Pat Fannon, and Senator Bill Ferguson as they couldn’t answer the questions about the increased traffic on Ostend St. and Hanover St. as well as the proposed closure of Warner St. without the DOT present. Fannon and Ferguson let the crowd know that the community representative for DOT has recently taken a job with MTA, and that was probably the reason why they were not present.
At the November 19th City Council meeting, legislation will be introduced to close Warner St. between Bayard and Worcester. “I’m sure most people don’t care about losing Warner St., but the problem is that you have to use Bayard St. to turn left onto Russell St., you cannot turn left on Worcester. Taking another route to get to 95 and 295 could add a lot of time my commute,” said a resident in the audience. “Making left turns from Worcester will certainly be something that will be looked into,” said Clark.
S. Hanover St. has also been a major concern of SBNA over the years. S. Hanover St. is a major access point to Baltimore City as it becomes Ritchie Highway as you enter Anne Arundel County. S. Hanover St. is filled with rowhomes and businesses in South Baltimore from Wells St. to W. Hill St. which creates much concern about the speed of cars passing through SBNA, Federal Hill and Sharp-Leadenhall as well as well as illegal truck traffic. A DOT study is currently underway about how to calm traffic on this residential street, but concerns were high about what extra traffic Horseshoe Baltimore would add to the street.
“Hanover already struggles with the more than 10,000 vehicles it attracts everyday, as well as the congestion of a Ravens game. I’m really concerned about what can be done as another major attraction is added to the area, and many cars will be traveling down Hanover to Ostend to get to the Casino,” said a member of the SBNA board. Another question that could not be answered without DOT in the building.
Caesars will also have the option to buy Lot J (Stockholm and Warner) and Lot O (Ostend and Ridgely) which are currently used as parking lots for Ravens games and Stadium events though owned by Baltimore City. “The Ravens are in conversations with Caesars about parking, but the situation will be addressed. The Ravens may have to build another parking garage. But the area is getting a new 4,000 car parking garage, that is a lot of parking,” said Clark.
Clearly a lot of questions about traffic and transportation were left unanswered. As the meeting ended, SBNA president Amy Mutch promised she would do everything she could to make sure DOT was at the next meeting. If they don’t show, once again it won’t be because they weren’t invited.