'Social engineering' in the suburbs
By ANDREW RATNEB
N 22 19%
er. After your slow (if picturesque) Mile 6: A "power center" of
ride on country roads, you may huge warehouse stores is a-build-
CRITICISM of the come to realize that government is ing—a new Bigfoot that'.s come to
transfer of a fraction of as responsible for the places we compete in the suburban market.
public housing from Bal- live as any individual's "work eth- Mile 7: You begin seeing road
timore to the counties is ic." You'll also get a good history signs of villages that now barely
that it's "social engi- lesson, because old roads, like age exist, whistle-stops hopscotched
neering;" rings on a tree, tell the story of by superhighways and sprawl:
That broadside dis- growth in Central Maryland. Nottingham, Loreley, Van Bibber.
counts the immense role govern- One such journey might follow Mile 14: We come to -r- Ted Kac-
ment has played in shaping the Route 7, also known as Philadel- zynski's cabin? No, but a ram- ,
suburbs, as if they were settled by phia Road, from the city to Bel Air. shackle hovel with gingham cur-
rugged homesteaders on wagon It was the old colonial post road, tains and a big sign out front, "Get
trains. Without the $2.5 billion in- later superseded by U.S. 40, which US out of the United Nations,"
vested in highway expansion in itself became outmoded by 1-95, seems a reminder of how far we've
this region alone the past 15 years, the superhighway President Ken- traveled from the city. No, we're
plus billions more for water and nedy inaugurated in Maryland a not in Baltimore anymore, Toto.
sewer systems and other infra- week before he was assassinated. Yet the highways and dense sub-
structure, the bedroom communi- urban housing seem to have nar-..
ties that have mushroomed-in— The long way home I rowed thegap., .
places like Bel Air and Westmin- Out of East Baltimore, you'll Mile 17: Welcome to Abingdon,
ster and Odenton would not exist. pick up Route 7 heading east. ground-zero for Harford County's
If highway building isn't "social Mile 1: Over there on your left is double-digit growth the past dec-
engineering" — the term Rep. Bob Hollander Ridge, the public-hous- ade. Could thousands of families
Ehrlich and others use to attack ing towers that loom over the con- make a home here if they had to
the shift of subsidized rental units fluence of 1-95 and 1-895. Some travel a Route 7 daily? Not likely.
from city to suburb — it is as- claim former Mayor William Don- Government created this place, as
suredly engineering with a pro- ald Schaefer had it built at the city much as it made public housing.
found social impact. line to tweak county officials who And, not coincidentally, gov-
President Dwight Eisenhower refused to build public housing. ernment is rethinking both those
launched the U.S. interstate sys- The complex was again a source of decisions: U.S. Housing Secretary
tem in the mid-1950s to speed friction recently when city housing Henry Cisneros wants more liva-
commerce and travel. Unwitting- officials left a gap in a fence ble subsidized housing, while Gov.
ly, it also eroded the cities, some- around the property, which resU Parris Glendening wants to invest
times by plowing through urban dents in Rosedale blamed for in- in older communities to discour-
neighborhoods, but also by exac- creased crime. age continued sprawl,. So when
erbating a society of haves and Mile 3: On your right is Golden someone next decries 'isocial engi-
have-nots. Ring, among the early suburban neering," the criticismjmay strike
If you reside in the suburbs, malls. Just as it undid downtown closer to home thahyoii think,
take the long way home from work retailing, the glitzier White Marsh i
one evening — when not forced to Mall clobbered it after opening in Andrew Ratner is ''director of
do so by an overturned 18-wheel- 1981 just up the interstate. zoned editorials for The Sun.
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