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The Dripby Ed Gunts2:00 pmNov 19, 20150

One way or two for St. Paul and Calvert streets?

City to hold public meetings in December to help determine the fate of St. Paul and Calvert streets

Above: Southbound traffic backs up on St. Paul Street at a traffic light in Mt. Vernon.

The Department of Transportation will hold three community meetings next month to discuss a study it has been conducting about the idea of converting parts of St. Paul Street and Calvert Street to accommodate two-way traffic after being one-way streets for 60 years.

The corridors under study go from Fayette Street downtown to University Parkway near the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus.

In all, the recommendations could affect traffic patterns along 36 blocks in a variety of neighborhoods, including downtown, Mount Vernon-Belvedere, Station North, Old Goucher and Charles Village.

$150,000 Study

The city hired a traffic engineer, Sabra Wang & Associates, to recommend ways to “calm” traffic and make those streets safer. The two options were converting the streets back to two-way traffic or maintaining one way streets and pursuing other ways to calm traffic.

After a year and a half, city officials say, the engineers are nearing the end of their $150,000 study and at a point where they want to hear from the community before they prepare their recommendations to the city.

The meetings will be held on:

• Tuesday, December 1, at Saints Philip and James Catholic Church, 2801 North Charles Street, from 7-9 p.m.

• Wednesday, December 9, at the Baltimore Montessori School, 1600 Guilford Avenue, from 7-8:30 p.m.

• Tuesday, December 15, at the Benton Building, 417 E. Fayette Street, third floor conference room, from 6-8 p.m.

DOT Says it is Open Minded

According to Adrienne Barnes and Kathy Dominick of DOT’s public relations department, the meetings are being held to give people an update about the conversion study, discuss the pros and cons of the two proposals, and let people react.

They said Sabra Wang  does not have a  recommendation yet and the meetings are an important part of its process of developing one. “We are hoping to get as much information as possible from residents and motorists,” Barnes said.

“We are open minded,” added Valorie LaCour, chief of transportation planning for DOT. “There is no recommendation yet. We want the community’s input to help formulate that recommendation.”

Implications for Parking, Cyclists and Bus Users

LaCour said the engineers will discuss how converting the streets to two-way traffic would affect the availability of on-street parking as well as “passenger volumes” on Calvert and St. Paul and other nearby streets.

They also have explored the implications for bikers, bus and shuttle passengers, fire trucks, and ambulances serving Union Memorial Hospital and Mercy Medical Center.

LaCour said the consultants will take the comments from the three meetings into consideration as they make their final report. She said the engineers are expected to make a recommendation to DOT Director William Johnson in January and he will share it with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake and other city officials.

The timetable for implementing recommended changes along the two streets is dependent on costs and funding cycles. LaCour said the city does not have specific cost estimates yet, but the plans for making changes under either approach would have to be in the city’s Capital Improvement Program. The budgetary process for fiscal 2017 is starting now.

At a meeting of the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association this week, board member Steve Shen said he believes the decision will have a big impact on the neighborhoods in midtown and elsewhere.

Shen said the board favors converting Calvert and St. Paul to two-way traffic.

“This is the most important transformational opportunity in our neighborhood” in years, Shen told an audience of about 85. Making the right decision, he added, is “the most important issue we face.”

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