Brace Yourself Baltimore: Charles Street Under Major Construction Soon

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A rendering of the new pedestrian-friendly Charles Village, complete with students on cell phones.

Hope you’re enjoying those non-working traffic lights and trees in the middle of the road — they’re a piece of cake compared to the chaos that Charles Village residents and passers-by can expect when Charles Street goes under major construction later this month.

The good news? Once it’s all over, all those obliviously texting students who wander into the middle of Charles Street and terrify drivers will have a roadway that takes their safety into account. The bad news? Driving through Charles Village might be miserable for the next two years.

So. The plan is for the mile-long chunk of Charles Street from 25th Street all the way up to University Parkway to be rebuilt, which means closures, detours, and temporary pedestrian crossings. The ultimate goal is a prettier roadway, “more balanced traffic patterns,” safer bicycle lanes, and a more pedestrian-friendly feel along the stretch of the road that borders Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus. Once all construction is complete (hopefully two years from now), a large pedestrian ellipse will allow students to wander at will in the area immediately bordering the so-called “beach” in front of the school’s library, and that slightly-scary sweeping turn from Charles Street onto Art Museum Drive will be converted to a 90-degree turn. The current southbound carriage lane will be expanded to two lanes between University and 29th. The university stands to benefit from a more welcoming entrance to its main campus, and has contributed $2.5 million of the $25 million project.

The downside? Fewer parking spots, for one. Also the traffic that’s sure to result once Charles Street closes between 28th Street and University Parkway. The Department of Transportation is urging northbound travelers to use Calvert Street instead; southbound traffic will be diverted to St. Paul. Bike traffic is urged to use Guilford Avenue. Various buses and shuttles are reformatting their routes. To ease the confusion, the city has made a website to track the project as it develops; Hopkins has its own university-centric version here.

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  1. Construction will slow people driving home to the suburbs, but it will benefit many people who live in the city, especially students and others who spend time in Charles Village walking and biking. For bicyclists, this comes as good news–the road is horribly potholed such that people on bikes risk being propelled over the handlebars when they hit a sunken ditch. Also, there isn’t that much parking there to begin with — any many bus routes (some free) that take riders to this neighborhood.

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