Sunday, March 18 2012 @ 11:59 PM EDT
Contributed by: B' Spokes
If you haven’t heard by now, a remarkable thing has just happened in Baltimore. If it stands, it will long be remembered as a turning point in local transportation history: Baltimore City transportation officials have selected a “Complete Streets” configuration for Boston Street in conjunction with the planned Red Line light rail line.
What this means is that the current configuration of Boston Street - which became a fast moving 4-lane, suburban-style arterial roadway about twenty years ago - will eventually be transformed into a 2-lane urban waterfront street with exclusive space for the light rail, bike lanes, and enhanced pedestrian facilities and landscaping. The new configuration will calm traffic along Boston Street by discouraging speeding, while encouraging more walking, biking, outdoor lingering, café dining, and transit use along the corridor.
A New Day
Selecting the Boston Street Completes Street option is a testament to the courage and leadership of the Baltimore Department of Transportation (BDOT), which, in recent years, has been willing to take some chances on progressive initiatives aimed at making the city more livable and less traffic-dominated.
Emerging Advocacy amid Stumbling Blocks
A key factor that has fostered BDOT’s ability to take a more progressive approach is the increasing support among the general public for complete streets and sustainable transportation infrastructure, particularly for things like bike lanes and attractive surface transit that become an integral and visible part of the public realm. New advocacy groups like RedLine Now, The Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance, and a newly formed Baltimore cycling advocacy organization, are all prime examples of the growing interest in urban living that relies less on driving and creates more hospitable environments for walking, cycling, and transit.
Despite its good efforts and intentions, BDOT can’t implement these innovative projects without broad public support. This was starkly illustrated last year when BDOT installed a bike lane on Monroe Street in West Baltimore by removing one of the travel lanes. Despite the street having a relatively low volume of car traffic, the bike lane was met with vocal community opposition and the lane was subsequently removed.