CUMBERLAND — The Downtown Development Commission discussed alternatives to a city plan for a closure of the underpass beneath the train tracks on Queen City Drive during its regular meeting Thursday.
The city has been exploring the idea of closing the underpass, which has been plagued by litter, graffiti, standing water and loitering for years.
“I think it would be a mistake to close it,” said Ed Mullaney, downtown manager.
Despite the installation of video cameras in recent years, the city, with manpower and resources stretched thin, has been frustrated by the ongoing poor conditions of the underpass.
“It’s not a good reason to close it — because you don’t want to take care of it,” said DDC member Doug Schwab.
Mullaney is concerned about closing the underpass to residents on the other side of the tracks.
“We have a neighborhood across the tracks with viable housing. They are contributing to the downtown,” said Mullaney.
Ownership of the underpass has also been in dispute and with no one taking responsibility, it has been hard for the city to move forward with any plans.
CSX has not confirmed responsibility for the portion beneath the railroad tracks.
Mayor Brian Grim called the underpass “disgusting” in a recent Times-News interview following a complaint to the newspaper from a citizen who attempted to use the underpass and found standing water, trash and bottles that caused him to turn around and wait for the train to pass.
Dave Caporale, city councilman, was present at Thursday’s meeting and said that the issue may “be held off a bit longer.”
Sandi Saville, chair of the DDC, suggested that maybe the underpass could be closed at night.
DDC member Lee Schwartz suggested the possibility of an electronic gate that would open the underpass when trains are present and then close it when they are not.
Due to the difficulties associated with monitoring underground passages, they have been discarded in recent years for elevated walking bridges.
“I cringe when I think of someone from out of town walking through there,” said Mullaney.
The DDC decided to either have an informal meeting with city officials or to receive a presentation from the city on the problems with the underpass.
In other DDC news, it was announced that a third planter — in front of the Gateway Center in the 100 block of Baltimore Street — will receive fencing around it next week identical to the fencing placed on the two planters at the east end of the mall.
Saville and Jennifer Light, downtown co-manager, also announced that they are planning to speak with officials at the Rocky Gap Casino Resort next week about the possibility of establishing a bus or shuttle service between downtown and the resort.
Mullaney suggested that the DDC, along with city officials, take a look at a 2.8-acre lot behind the Kensington for potential flat surface parking. Mullaney said the Kensington bought the lot from CSX and may now be interested in leasing it.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.