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DOT Missing as City, State and Caesars Officials Meet With South Baltimore

| November 14, 2012 | 5 Comments

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.

 

About the Author:

Creator of SouthBmore.com and resident of SoBo. Graduate of Towson University and owner of Incept Multimedia, a full service video production company. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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  • bmoreguy

    WOW! These turn of events are a total shock. The city, casino operators, and anybody who has a real say in this owes nothing to the neighborhood association. Sad, but true. They came in and pumped up a bunch of falsehoods to get buy in and then went ahead and did what they wanted to anyway. Now that this diamond is looking like a turd William Cole and the city DoT are nowhere to be found. The very people we expect, especially Cole, to lobby behind the neighborhood are taking cover. Oh well. A bunch of McJobs will be created and 20 year olds have a new place to scream and puke on weekends. Current residents will either get used to the new inconveniences this creates or simply move. Don’t look for anything to be done for the neighborhood at least not without a long drawn out fight because now that this question won all they care about now is getting their 80cents on the buck and as quickly as they can.

    • King in the North

      >20 year olds have a new place to scream and puke on weekends.

      As a 20-something, this is mildy offensive, so lay off you old curmudgeon. Yes the kiddos want to go out and party on Cross Street as well as enjoy whatever entertainment the city has to offer, but this is the same demographic that supports local businesses, is buying/renting properties in droves, and generally part of a revitalization of Southern Baltimore.

      Your problem isn’t with young people, it’s with the city planners and local officials.

      • bmoreguy

        While it doesn’t show here – I’m quick to defend Federal Hill and the younger crowd that lives here. I take nothing away from you guys or your contributions. I’m 33 so I’m not too far outside of the predominant age group that lives there.

        The falsehoods and grand assumptions about this project has annoyed me. I thought it was a joke six months ago when the SBNA thought there would be increased noise from bar patrons coming back into the neighborhood from the casino at what was then proposed to be the 4am closing time. I never thought it was reasonable that people would walk from Fed Hill to the casino given the path they would have to take to get there but now it looks like there are plans to bridge the casino to the neighborhood. If it works out, great! I don’t think the casino was ever fully honest about the scale of the project they wanted in the first place so residents couldn’t be well informed about what to really expect from it.

  • jz

    Don’t we already have enough major attractions on S. Hanover Street;)

  • Alev

    Being at the meeting it became clear there is no plan to consider any input SBNA or any other community has. The haven’t picked an LDC yet, DOT wasn’t at the meeting, our local councilman was missing as well. In the meantime construction is going to begin early Q2 in 2013. Even if DOT shows up to the next meeting that will be after the hearing to close Warner St. Representatives from the city tried to explain that they were holding off on the LDC until after the election and Question 7. Regardless of if Question 7 passed or not they were still building this casino and still planning on closing Warner St. I think this Casino could be a good thing for the area, especially if that side of Russell St gets redeveloped but I was so disappointed in that meeting. Nobody had any answers and it became obvious that the Casino and the City are going full speed ahead regardless of any concerns from the local community.

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