The Pressure is on for the Fort Ave. Bridge Construction

| March 26, 2012 | 11 Comments

Whether you are a frustrated Locust Point resident, an impatient dog on the detour to the Locust Point Dog Park, someone trying to get to work or one of the great restaurants of Locust Point, most of you are aware that the Fort Ave. bridge is still under construction.  All recent reports have indicated that CSX and the Department of Transportation are still on track to open Fort Ave. back up by June 1st.

We’ll see if that happens, but to say they are under enormous pressure to get it done by then would be a huge understatement.  This June begins the celebration of the 200-year anniversary of the War of 1812, coined the Star Spangled Sailabration. Crowds of 30,000-40,000 per day are expected June 14th, 15th and 16th.

If hundred of thousands of people have to take a detour to get to Fort McHenry this would be an epic fail.  In one of the biggest tourist events in the history of Locust Point and Fort McHenry, you just can’t have the main road to get there under construction.  Perhaps this project should have been delayed or done two years prior in preparation for this?

June also begins the Banner Route, Charm City Circulator’s new route going from Light and Pratt St. to Fort McHenry along Key Highway and Fort Ave.  The residents and businesses of Hull St. have seen their street become a highway during the construction. I’m sure they’d be thrilled to have a bus bringing thousands of people per day added to the mix!  Nicholson St., which is the main part of the detour past Domino and Under Armour, is also a road the has really struggled with increased traffic – it just was not built to frequently handle a wide-turning bus.

The Banner Route also received heavy criticism for not riding along Fort Ave. through the Riverside and South Baltimore neighborhoods.  Fort Ave. is within one block of 61 storefronts between Lawrence St. and Hanover St. and also would have given many tourists a great ride though some of Baltimore’s finest neighborhoods.

Adding to the confusion, historic Riverside Park, once known as Look-Out Hill,  is undergoing a massive renovation in preparation for the Sailabration. This is another great reason Fort Ave. should have been included in the Banner Route, as Riverside Park is just one block from Fort Ave.  Latrobe Park is also undergoing a tennis, street hockey and basketball court renovation that is hoping for a June 1st completion.  Once again there will be pressure, this time on Recreation and Parks.  With the many tourists coming though Locust Point, do we really want a half-finished recreation area for them to see right before they get to Fort McHenry?

There has been some good news though for Locust Point businesses and residents of late. While the bridge is still a construction site, a temporary walking bridge has been installed allowing residents of East Locust Point to walk to West Locust Point and the rest of the peninsula and vice versa.

I stopped into Barracudas yesterday, which is practically on top of the construction zone, and you could see people walking over the bridge all day long.  We documented the struggles of Barracudas and other Fort Ave. businesses in a February 15th article.  “The new walking bridge has made a huge difference, we had a really busy weekend. It’s really starting to feel like a restaurant in here again,” Barracudas owner Billy Hughes told SouthBMore.com.

Barracudas and 5 Points Tavern both estimated they lost more than 40% of their business while the walking bridge was down.  A new bridge, plus the usual NCAA Tournament and St. Patrick’s day perks of March, have certainly been a needed boost for the Locust Point bars.

The pressure is on CSX and Baltimore City to get the bridge construction finished by their goal of June 1st.  Time will tell if they reach the target goal. If they don’t, we will all agree that this is a disaster that could have been avoided with better planning!

 

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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