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Maryland Digital Cultural Heritage

About this collection

259 reports and accompanying photographs of recommended capitol improvement projects aimed at improving the flow of traffic in Baltimore. The collection provides a glimpse of city life in the mid-1950's, and offers a unique perspective on a significant period in Baltimore's urban planning history.

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Four photographs of Baltimore locations in the 1950's in a vertical layout. The top two show bridges, the third shows an image of a car in an intersection, and the bottom image shows a four-way traffic light stop.Collection Location: Baltimore Streetcar Museum

Contributor: The Maryland Heritage Library, a joint operation of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum and the Baltimore Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society

Collection Overview: The Baltimore Recommended Capital Improvement Program is a three-volume collection of 259 reports with accompanying photographs of recommended capital improvements to Baltimore City streets submitted in 1955 by Henry A. Barnes, Director of Traffic, to Thomas F. Hubbard, Chairman, Planning Commission of the City of Baltimore. Consisting of more than 550 items, this collection details 125 redesign, 50 bridge reconstruction, 55 channelization, 13 road widening, 6 gradient separation, and 10 median divider projects to help improve the flow of traffic in Baltimore City.

When in the spring of 1953 Henry A. Barnes accepted the newly created position of Traffic Director for the City of Baltimore, he was no stranger to its traffic problems. In March of that year he had traveled east from Denver to survey and report on the city's traffic problems. His 172-page report identified a gamut of problems: the out-of-date master controller of traffic signals, "the lack of one-way streets, the free-for-all truck routes, the menacing monuments that cluttered up the avenues, the busses and cabs that operated as though they were fueled with high-octane Bourbon, and the pedestrians who just didn’t give a damn. But, worst of all, was the Baltimore Traffic Commission" whose meetings reminded him of "the Marx Brothers in 'A Night at the Opera'." And, of course, Baltimore still had streetcars, which, he said, he "didn't mind … except for the fact they ran on streets." This collection provides insight into what 1950's Baltimore faced when its past and present collided on its streets and details Barnes' systematic approach to dealing with the traffic problems that arose from that collision.

The Baltimore Streetcar Museum (BSM), located at 1905 Falls Road in Baltimore, is a non-profit museum dedicated to preserving Baltimore's public transportation history, particularly as it relates to the street railway era. Visitors to the BSM can view one of the many historical exhibits and take unlimited rides on some of Baltimore's original streetcars.

Related Material:

Barnes, Henry A. The Man with the Red and Green Eyes: The Salty and Outspoken Autobiography of Henry A. Barnes, Traffic Commissioner, New York City. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1965.

Latrobe, John H. B. Baltimore’s Monuments and Memorials. Baltimore: J. H. B. Latrobe, 1997.

 
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