About 50 Canton residents and business owners very strongly rejected two construction options for the Red Line train project last night.
One option would be to close a stretch of Boston St., from just west of the S. Montford St. intersection to just west of the westernmost entrance of the Can Company. Traffic would be rerouted to Fleet St. and Eastern Ave. To the west, traffic would access Fleet and Eastern via Lakewood and Kenwood avenues. To the east, traffic would be rerouted via Conkling St.
The other option would be to construct a temporary bypass through the parking area owned by Anchorage Townhomes. It would start near the Canton Market and re-connect with Boston st. near the Anchorage Tower.
“You’ve come up with two options, neither of which are acceptable,” said Ben Rosenberg, an attorney who lives in the Moorings townhomes on Boston St. “Use all your brains and come up with another option that doesn’t cause this kind of disruption to people’s lives, people’s homes, and people’s businesses.”
Engineer Tom Mohler of the Maryland Transit Authority told Rosenberg that he would personally commit to finding a third option, but wasn’t sure if there were in fact any other possibilities.
The Red Line plans call for a transition from underground to above-ground more or less along Boston St. from S. Montford Ave. and Hudson St.
West of that point, the Red Line would run underground; east of there, it would be above the surface.
Responding to a question as to why the Red Line will run above ground at that point, Mohler replied that a number of factors led to that decision, “cost being a major one.”
Mohler said that while an underground boring machine would tunnel through downtown Baltimore, the point where the train transitions to the surface would be a “cut and cover” area—digging would have to be done to access and remove the boring machines, and then the top of the pit would be covered. The end result would be a tunnel sloping up to meet the surface.
That transitional area, on Boston St. between S. Montford Ave. and Hudson St., would require 9-12 months of work and diverted auto traffic in 2015. In total, Canton would see heavy construction for 24-30 months, Mohler said, first for the cut-and-cover, then for a retaining wall. At completion, the train would run down the middle of Boston St., with auto traffic lanes on either side.
While a couple of the assembled residents and business owners spoke in favor of allowing the MTA staff to say their piece, none spoke in favor of the Red Line project itself, and it appeared that all who spoke were against both options for the Boston St. area.
Dan Sussman, a resident of the Anchorage Townhomes, exploded at the bypass idea.
“Where does that bypass road go?” he said, rising to his feet. “I think that’s our property!”
Sussman said that people in his homeowners’ association had supported the Red Line—without having that piece of information.
“Why did you lie to us from the beginning?” he said, adding that his group would fight “tooth and nail” to prevent the bypass from happening.
“So clearly you don’t like option two,” said Mohler.
“We don’t like option one!” responded a large number of people from the audience.
Business owners expressed concerns both with the loss of parking spaces and with the disruption to customer access during the project. The MTA engineers said that there would be points for pedestrians to cross Boston St. at all times during construction.
The owner of the Outback Steakhouse said that when he is at work, he sets a two-hour alarm and moves his car up to four times to comply with the permit parking area requirements.
“Imagine what my customers are going to go through,” he said. “There’s no parking now.”
Tony Vasiliades, owner of Sip & Bite Restaurant, said that he planned to circulate a petition against the project. He said that he expects many businesses to close should the Red Line proceed as planned.
Canton resident Joe Collins expressed concerns about the possibility of tunnel flooding in a weather event similar to Hurricane Sandy or Irene.
“We have taken into account that the tunnel will not flood under those circumstances,” said Mohler.
The meeting ended as residents and business owners got out of their chairs; one of the residents passed around a sign-up sheet for the assembled group to hold its own meeting at a later date.
Collins told the MTA staff that they should take the proposal “back to O’Malley” because “lawyers are coming.” He added that he had personally phoned all local elected officials, none of whom attended the meeting.
by Erik Zygmont