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Neighborhoodsby Mark Reutter6:39 pmJun 3, 20140

Red Line to be rerouted to accommodate station moved for Paterakis

BREW EXCLUSIVE: MTA plans to move its tunnel from President Street a block west to under Pier 5. The change may delay the rail project by up to 10 months.

Above: The Red Line tunnel will be shifted from President Street (yellow lines) to Pier 5 (blue lines) under the MTA’s latest plans.

Talk about unintended consequences.

Moving the Central Avenue Red Line station a block west to satisfy developer John Paterakis’ wishes will require rerouting of the line’s tunnel on the east side of the Inner Harbor.

Henry M. Kay, director of Red Line planning, confirmed today that engineering staff are developing plans to reroute the transit tunnel – long planned under President Street – about a block west under the Fallsway, Pier 5 and the Candler Building.

The new alignment will form a sweeping “S curve” between Lombard and Market streets on the north to the Fallsway and Fleet Street on the south.

The reason for the shift: the new station planned at Exeter and Fleet streets – to replace the station Paterakis had opposed at Central and Fleet – is too cramped to maintain a straight platform alignment.

“The station platform would fall into a curve on the west end, and the platform needs to be straight,” Kay said. As a result, the Red Line will continue a block further west on Fleet Street before turning northwest.

Shift Expected to Cause Delay

Kay said the new alignment is not expected to add significantly to the cost of the proposed 14-mile line – which currently stands at $2.644 billion.

“The plan requires a bigger footprint for the new station, which could [add to costs],” Kay said, but the deep tunnel under the Fallsway and Pier 5 should not be more expensive than under President Street.

However, planning the new alignment could delay the project, which is currently scheduled to start construction in mid-2016.

“It could be a 10-month delay, but it could be lesser, because we are working on other engineering issues while planning [the new alignment],” Kay said.

He said the transit project has many factors that affect its schedule, including the cash flow coming from the Maryland Department of Transportation to keep planners and private consultants at work.

Kay described the new alignment as a “refinement” to the existing plan and said it would not change the scope of the project, which remains the most expensive public works project in Baltimore’s history.

The location of the new Exeter Street station (yellow boxes to the left) and the location of the scotched Central Avenue station. Paterakis' warehouse is on the south side of Fleet Street between Central and Eden. (MTA)

The location of the new Exeter Street station (yellow boxes to the left) and the location of the now-scotched Central Avenue station. Paterakis’ warehouse is on the south side of Fleet Street between Central and Eden. (MTA)

Kay said Maryland officials will soon be talking to the Federal Transit Administration about what kind of supplemental environmental document may be required for the new station and alignment.

Last year, the FTA accepted the project’s Final Environment Impact Study (FEIS). At that time, local officials warned that any changes to the plan could cause delays or even disapproval by federal officials.

Kay and his staff, however, decided last fall to search for alternatives to the Central Avenue station that Paterakis – the politically-wired builder of Harbor East who also owns H&S Bakery – said it would complicate his plans to convert a warehouse he owns into commercial and residential space.

Last month, the city agreed to pay $200,000 to Paterakis as part of a deal to move his warehouse operations to an industrial park on the city’s far east side.

Impact on Little Italy

For visitors and users of Pier 5, the proposed alignment would have little or no visual impact because the twin rail tunnels would be bored by underground machines some 70 feet below the surface. There would be little evidence of construction at ground level, Kay said.

However, the new station at Exeter and Fleet streets would require a deep hole in the ground from Exeter to High along Fleet Street. The area is part of historic Little Italy.

Kay said the MTA plans to use an existing parking lot on the north side of Fleet Street as the entrance to the station.

Completion of the station would take about three years. During this period, a portion of Fleet Street would be open to traffic because the hole would be dug in two phases, according to Kay.

A preliminary sketch of the entrance to the Red Line station at Exeter and Fleet streets (green box). A Whole Foods grocery store is currently located kitycorner on the station. (MTA)

An image of the space the Red Line station would occupy at Exeter and Fleet streets (green box). A Whole Foods grocery store is currently located kitty-corner to the proposed station. (MTA)

Project Funding

Under current plans, about $900 million, or 34% of the Red Line would be paid by the federal government’s new Starts program.

The rest would be covered by the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund ($1.2 billion), Baltimore County ($50 million), Baltimore City ($200 million), and a possible private partner under the state’s public-private partnership legislation ($275 million projected).

The city’s $200 million share is expected to be paid “in kind,” Kay said, with the city donating land and using sewer and road paving improvements along Edmondson Avenue and elsewhere to aid in the line’s construction.

Baltimore County has not yet disclosed how it plans to fund its $50 million share. (MORE on Red Line financing.)

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