Cumberland Times-News

May 11, 2013

Just do it

Close the Baltimore Street underpass


Cumberland Times-News

— It’s time for Cumberland city officials to admit failure and close the Baltimore Street underpass.

The city was struggling with how to keep the underpass clean and safe more than 40 years ago — and nothing has changed in that time. If anything, the situation is worse.

The underpass was the topic of discussion at last week’s Mayor and Council meeting when John Wiland, of Midlothian, told city officials he tried to use the underground walkway but had an experience that he said was despicable. Wiland said he had parked near McDonald’s and was waiting for a train when he decided to use the underpass to get to the Social Security office on Glenn Street.

“There was standing water in the middle. It’s a mess,” said Wiland.

A photograph accompanying a Times-News article about the problem on Wednesday showed the underpass steps littered with trash.

On April 7, 1970, this newspaper reported that the street department had to go to the underpass daily to keep the passage clean.

In 2011, then-Councilman Butch Hendershot lamented the condition of the underpass, saying it needed a good cleaning and more police presence to deter loitering and other problems.

Despite installing cameras and making occasional police patrols, the underpass continues to be a passageway that few Cumberlanders feel safe in using. It is dirty, smelly and sometimes is a spot for vagrants.

How much of the underpass, which travels underneath CSX railroad tracks at Baltimore Street and Queen City Drive, is owned by the railroad and what is city property appears to be in question.

But that should not stop the city from closing off the exits and entrances at both ends of the tunnel. This is a matter of public safety and well-being.

If CSX wants the underpass to remain open, then it needs to work with the city to make the tunnel a safe, suitable route to take.

At Tuesday’s meeting Mayor Brian Grim said he wants to see the underpass closed for good. The city council should now get behind Grim and get the job done.