The Charles Village Civic Association held a meeting on Thursday, March 15 at Barnes & Noble to discuss the upcoming N. Charles St. construction and what it means for community members, including Hopkins students. The actual construction will begin this spring and will be completed during Spring 2014.
The project meeting, which was run by Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) employees Tierra Brown, Mary Colleen Buettner and Rick McGraw, explained the benefits of the construction, which include improved safety for the area, better traffic patterns and making the area more aesthetically pleasing. There were posters throughout Barnes & Noble detailing each part of the construction project. They also explained what community members should expect from the construction, including changes in traffic patterns.
"The community was very responsive and we made contact with many folks throughout the neighborhood," DOT spokesperson Adrienne Barnes wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
The project will run from 25th St. to University Parkway. From 25th to 29th St., the road will be resurfaced and repairs will be made.
"[It] includes sporadic base, curb, and sidewalk repairs with a new electric duct bank, traffic signals and ADA ramps," Barnes wrote.
From 29th St to University Parkway, the road will be completely reconstructed with a multitude of new features.
"North Charles from 29th Street to University Parkway will be full depth reconstruction with new reconfigured landscaped medians, new sidewalks, new curb and gutter, new traffic signals, new storm water management inlets, new waterlines, ADA ramps, new lighting, art work with landscaping, and new trees," Barnes wrote.
The project was first envisioned in 1999 by the DOT in response to an increase in traffic and safety issues. The current design for N. Charles St. was implemented in the early 1900's and was not built for the heavy traffic that exists today. The project, which is estimated to cost around $30 million, is funded by Baltimore City and the Federal Government.
"Unfortunately, the current plan and lane utilization dating from an early 20th Century design, when combined with today's traffic volumes, speeds and heavy pedestrian crossings, merits serious reassessment and re-evaluation," Barnes wrote. "Master plans previously prepared for Charles Village, the Baltimore Museum of Art and Johns Hopkins University have identified the need to improve North Charles Street."
According to Barnes, Hopkins has been involved with the project from the beginning. The University is especially interested in making the street safer for pedestrians and making the area look nicer.
"I would say that the big driver is to improve pedestrian safety, to improve the overall look and feel and to enable some of the access that we didn't previously have," Associate Director of Building Operations Greg Smith said.
In addition to the construction project, Hopkins has also recently placed traffic control officers on St. Paul St. and 33rd. They are stationed there from 4-8 p.m. on weekdays to ensure that pedestrians are able to cross the street safely.
"That has more to do with the University's continued attempt to improve safety and raise awareness amongst everyone, but especially the students, of the need to use caution and pay attention," Smith said.
Sophomore Ben Cohen appreciates the University's attempt to make crossing the street safer, especially after the recent accidents near campus.
"They're going to make it safer, apparently, to cross the street, which is nice so people don't get hit by cars. I know people who have been hit by cars and that's a shame," he said. "I think there are particular places where it says that pedestrians have the right of way that cars have to respect, and that is part of the reason why people get hit."
Since the construction will be going on for 22 months, it will affect students as they walk on and off campus. Businesses in Charles Village will remain open and emergency vehicles will have access to the construction area.
"There will be limited areas for which is possible or safe to cross Charles Street and those will be very clearly identified with jersey barriers and fencing," Smith said. "In one way, it will actually help us improve pedestrian safety because it will get people used to only crossing at crosswalks. I think there will be some perceived inconveniences such as noise, fewer parking spaces, detoured traffic for everyone who drives. We expect the shuttle bus routes, especially the JHMI shuttle bus route to have fewer stops and follow a detour path up Calvert Street."
Freshman Burcu Atay, however, is not concerned about the noise due to the construction affecting her daily life due to other construction that frequently occurs near Wolman. She first heard about the reconstruction due to the email that the University sent about the community meeting.
"I was here for Spring Break and [there was construction that] didn't actually really affect me, the only thing was that the street between Wolman and Charles was closed for half a day," she said.
Smith feels that the completed project will be worth the small inconveniences during the next 22 months. By Spring 2014, the road will be completely redesigned and there will be two lanes going southbound instead of one. Drivers will also be able to turn onto 33rd going south on N. Charles and the section where 34th intersects with N. Charles will be shaped like an oval. There is also an art component to the project.
"Ultimately, the end product will be a lot nicer looking, "Smith said. "[The art component] is designed to expand upon a mingling zone with benches and socialization and really become another place to be."