Sunday, September 27, 2015

Turning Ellicott City's Main Street into a Pedestrian Street?

I've been recently thinking about the concept of turning Ellicott City's Historic Main Street into a pedestrian-only zone, removing vehicles from the corridor. The thought came into my mind after going to Ellicott City's MusicFest this past weekend, and realizing how congested the downtown area becomes when cars and pedestrians fight for space. This got me thinking, wouldn't sectioning off this main artery for pedestrians, increase visitors and enhance the Ellicott City experience?

Ellicott City's Main Street

This concept has been implemented in many cities across the United States, like Cumberland in Western Maryland, and New York's Ithaca in the Finger Lakes. Those communities are now celebrated for their pedestrian-friendly atmospheres; something that E.C. is certainly lacking. Whenever I travel to Main Street, the feeling of being taken back in time quickly disappears when traffic snarls up Maryland's Route 144. During a normal day, parking usually isn't too much of an issue because of the city's many free visitor parking lots. However, when walking down Main Street, you are mere inches away from cars much of the time, causing a sense of claustrophobia and danger. So I went to my Google Maps, and created a new plan for my version of the new Ellicott City.

My proposed plan includes a new bypass for Historic Ellicott City, by rerouting traffic on a new road that I've coined "Ellicott City Parkway". This new parkway would leave old Frederick Road in Oella, and cross the Patapsco River undercutting south of Ellicott City. The new road would intersect all of the major roads on the south side: College Avenue, New Cut Road and Old Columbia Pike. The bypass would terminate and join Rogers Avenue at the intersection of old Frederick Road/Main Street on the west side. Manahan Drive is also extended to intersect the new bypass to increase connectivity. I've also added a new bikeway/path and a park on this new road in order to increase access to greenspace and the historic district.

A design for Ithaca's Pedestrian Mall.

For the pedestrian zone, Main Street would be sectioned off from Old Columbia Pike to the west end, and Maryland Avenue to the east end. All of Main Street from those two points, and Tiber Alley would be only used by pedestrians and authorized vehicles. This new zone would be the perfect place for entertainers (like that Bubble Blowing guy that's always there, ghost tours, festivals, and socializing). Old Columbia Pike and Main Street could also include a drop off zone area at the curve.
Of course this plan would require extensive work, and might not even be allowed due to historic conditions under the historic district and the Historic National Road (MD 144). Either way, it is worth thinking about how we can make Ellicott City more pedestrian and biker friendly.

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