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April 30, 2009

Seeking change at 'deadly' intersection

Jason Paul Eisenhuth, a military veteran now serving as a military contractor, caught my eye with this copy of a message he sent to the State Highway Administration after the death of his mother-in-law, Ruth Ortiz, in a fatal crash.

 He wrote:

 "I'm writing to you today about a particular intersection on U.S. Route 222, located in Rising Sun/Conowingo MD area. The roads at this intersection are Old Conowingo Rd., Route 222, and Ragan Rd. This intersection has drawn my attention in the fact that [it] is a deadly one. My mother in law was killed February 28th of this year, at 3:15 pm. A full sized F-150 ran the oversized stop sign on Old Conowingo road at 35 mph, into the traffic traveling on 222, where the average rate of speed is 60 mph. Without going into great detail, the truck struck a sedan traveling south, overturned, and then landed on top of Ruth Ortiz's car traveling north. The collision killed her instantly.

 "Why should this event be taken differently than any other? It's the fact that most collisions that result in fatalities are quickly forgotten about. That being said, little to no action usually takes place to analyze the scene and cause of the accident. How many accidents, fatal or not, does it take to change a traffic pattern, or any intersection?

 "On my own, I went back out to the scene of my mother-in-law's accident, and I took a good hard look at what measures have been taken to ensure people are aware of the intersection they're approaching. As I was standing alongside Route 222, a dump truck and trailer roared through the intersection at roughly 70+ mph. On Route 222, there is a single yellow flashing warning light about 1,500 ft from the intersection, only traveling northbound on Route 222 towards the intersection.

 "What happened to southbound? On Ragan Rd. and Old Conowingo Rd., there are oversized stop signs, one sign at the end of each road. Yes, there are warnings, but are they enough? Personally, I think not.

  "I had the opportunity to speak with several of the surrounding residents about their opinion and experiences about/with this intersection. Some of them witnessed the accident that day that took Ruth Ortiz's life, and severely injured her passengers. The consensus I received from the people I talked to was that this intersection is a terrible hazard, and something should be put into motion to change it.

 "I am not grinding an axe because of what happened to Ruth Ortiz, I decided to take action because there are not enough civilians that do... or maybe they're ignored or brushed aside. There are hundreds of thousands of accidents that happen daily in our country. How many cause solid changes to keep people safe? I wouldn't want to see those numbers compared.

 "What are the steps in making an official complaint? Proposed solution? There are many options in redesigning this intersection. My first suggestion would of course be a full fledged 4-way traffic light system... Red,Yellow and Green. Second, a 4-way red flashing light system, causing all traffic to at least slow down and stop for a moment. Third, installation of a traffic circle in this intersection -- very effective in slowing traffic. I stress to you how important this situation is to me, and to the safety of others."

 REPLY: First of all, I'm sorry for your family's  loss. It's a  great thing you're doing, channeling grief into trying to achieve a productive result for others. The engineering and maintenance of state and county roads is something citizens ought to raise questions about.

Having covered the State Highway Administration for several years, I can tell you the agency does take fatal crashes seriously. Whether it makes the appropriate changes in all cases is a matter for debate.

I forwarded your message to the press office of the SHA and discussed its procedures with spokesman Dave Buck. He said the agency reviews police reports of all fatal crashes on state  roads (such as Route 222) to see whether the circumstances raise questions about the road itself.

Buck agreed to look into the matter and get back. I'll post his reply.





Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:16 AM | | Comments (1)

April 28, 2009

Another resource for dealing with water main break traffic

From guest blogger Liz F. Kay:

Life is short. Why sit in traffic?

The Downtown Partnership had researched alternate routes to help people who live and work in Baltimore navigate through the city once the construction began on the $2.6 million Lombard Street rebuilding project.

These alternate routes will come in handy a little early given the road closures and detours in place due to the major water main break.

It turns out that most drivers default to a few paths when they traverse the city --- taking Interstate 395 to Conway Street, for example. But a traffic study showed drivers headed downtown could reach Calvert Street up to nine minutes faster by continuing straight and turning right on Pratt Street.

Alternate Routes through downtown Baltimore
Posted by Anica Butler at 3:09 PM |

Navigating the water main break mess

After this morning's water main break at Lombard and Gay streets, traffic is expected to be a mess again for this evening's commute, and possibly even tomorrow.

If you're heading out of downtown this evening, Liz F. Kay reports that you should steer clear of the area of the break:

Traffic from Fells Point or Canton should use Central Avenue to reach Fayette or Orleans Street.
Headed west to Interstate 95 or the Baltimore-Washington Parkway? Stay on those streets to Martin Luther King Boulevard.

If you still want to drive downtown and plan to take Interstate 83 south, exit at North Avenue or St. Paul Street to avoid road closures further south and east...

The Downtown Partnership has a helpful list of alternate routes on their Web site. But make sure you avoid the roads that are closed.

For those heading to the Orioles game tonight, city officials are recommending public transportation, and say that the light rail will be open for one hour after the last out of the game to accommodate fans.

Also for O's fans, Peter Schmuck has some ideas for alternate routes to the game for those coming from out of town.

Good luck!


Posted by Anica Butler at 3:00 PM |

April 27, 2009

Maryland driving rebounds in February

AAA Mid-Atlantic is reporting that Maryland drivers drove more miles in February 2009 than they did the same month in 2008 -- a possible halt in a longterm downward trend.

The 1.2 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled in Maryland, reported by the Federal Highway Administration based on preliminary data, contrasts with a continued decline nationwide. AAA said the federal agency reported that the state recorded 47 million more vehicle miles traveled this February than February 2008 -- 3,877 billion miles compared to 3,830 billion miles a year ago.

The highway administration said the the month-to-month national decrease was decrease was 0.9 percent. The state's narrow increase follows a 4.9 percent decline in miles driven in January -- continuing a trend that has cut deeply into state gas tax collections.

 “It’s hard to call February’s numbers a recovery sign … yet,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella said. “But with summer just ahead and motorists’ apparent willingness to travel again, this could be golden for the tourism industry.”

AAA said lower gas prices in Maryland may have made more motorists more willing to use their cars. Avarella said the average cost of a gallon of gas in February was less than $2 compared with about $3 the previous February.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

April 24, 2009

Stranded at Camden Yards? Blame the feds

Justin Pats of Alexandria, Va., got a rude surprise after the Orioles game Thursday night. He learned that the Maryland Transit Administration no longer operates the after-game charter buses that used to take riders who arrived by MARC back to their cars. What a way to put a damper on a victory.

Pats managed to get home because his father drive him back to Northern Virginia. Still, that was quite a haul for his father, who lives north of Baltimore.

Naturally, Pats is wondering what the score is and whether there are any good alternatives.

"As a season ticket holder this will become quite a hassle, especially coming up from NoVa in rush hour to see games. Have the Orioles taken any stance on this or provided any viable alternatives? Also, you mentioned there are charter buses "filling the void.' Do you have any more information on this so i can actually go back home after enjoying a complete O's game?"

Actually, Justin, I mentioned in a recent article that charter bus companies had filled the void for Ravens games. I wouldn't expect much help for Orioles fans.

The team really has no say in the matter. I'm sure they're unhappy about the discontinuation, but they didn't get a vote in the decision. I doubt they'll go into the bus business though.

It wasn't the MTA's call either. They discontinued the game buses under pressure from the Federal Transit Administration, which controls a hefty chunk of the MTA budget. The MTA's remaining service is constrained by the limitations of their one connection to D.C. – the B30 bus, which is run by the Washington Metro agency. And really you can’t blame WMATA for not building its B30 and subway schedule around the Orioles.

Don't look to charter operators to fill the void as they have for Ravens games because baseball crowds are smaller and less predictable. What would be profitable on a Yankees weekend would be a bust on a rainy Thursday with the White Sox in town. Neither the MTA nor the Maryland Stadium Authority is aware of any charter interest.

 So I’m afraid you’re just out of luck unless it’s a very fast game. The culprits, if you want to call them that, are the feds and the charter bus companies that pressed for the rule under the previous administration. These private operators really wanted the football business, but to get at it they needed a rule keeping public transit agencies from serving any athletic events. Orioles fans who live in the D.C. area are what you could call “collateral damage.”

 So if you want to get back to Alexandria via transit, you'll need to catch the last B30 bus that departs the BWI Business District at 10:44 p.m. and arrives at Greenbelt at 11:20 p.m. - 10 minutes before that station closes on weekdays. To be sure of catching the B30, riders have to catch the 10:08 p.m. light rail train to BWI. If the Light Rail is running late that could be cutting it close. So some eighth-inning departures may be a necessity.

One alternative, if you have a car but don't want to deal with Camden Yards parking costs and traffic, would be to drive to the North Linthicum light rail station, with its ample parking, and take a train in from there. You could also use the BWI Business District lot, but the return trains run half as frequently.

Or maybe set up a "Stranded O's Fans" group on Facebook and arrange a car pool. Sorry the news isn't better.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:20 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Light rail

April 23, 2009

ICC comes back to bite supporter?

Maryland Politics Watch reports that Nancy Navarro leads Del. Ben Kramer by 75 votes, with almost all votes counted, in the contentious contest for the Democratic nomination to an open Montgomery County Council seat.

Navarro, who considers Maryland's decision to build the Inter-county Connector a mistake, won the anti-ICC Sierra Club's endorsement in the contest over Kramer, a longtime advocate of the highway. My guess is that there were at least 76 hard-core ICC foes for which that was the deciding issue.

So while the road is on its way to completion, its opponents can claim a tentative victory in the karma war.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:06 PM |
Categories: On the roads

A transit stop is a terrible thing to waste

Wednesday evening found me at the Centre Street light rail station, and since it took a while for a BWI train to make an appearance, I had some time to take in my surroundings.

What a waste!

The area of Howard and Centre in the evening has the feel not of blight but of abandonment. There's little pedestrian traffic, and the dim lighting gives the station a spooky feel. The 600 block of Howard is a strip of apparently vacant or underused buildings.

"Transit-oriented development" is a bit of a buzzword now in planning circles, but this is a corner that cries out for this medicine. It's convenient to  lively, healthy neighborhoods and there aren't a lot of existing renters to displace.  Gentrification that doesn't displace anybody. What's not to like?

 At 610 N. Howard St., on the west side of the street, there's a large, boarded-up commercial structure -- the former home of Planned Parenthood -- that cries out for mixed-use redevelopment. The vacant property is now up for sale for a cool $3.25 million. Oddly, there's an ad for  the property online that lists all of its features except for the light rail station right outside the front door.

Across the street is the old Greyhound bus station, with plenty of parking. Add a little neon and bring some life to the corner, and I could see a popular restaurant/nightspot there.

The southeast corner is a surface parking lot -- hardly the ideal use of a property right on a transit route.

That entire area within a block or two of the Centre Street Station needs a master developer to enter into a partnership with the city and Maryland Transit Administration to bring housing, offices, shops, restaurants and night life to the corner.

Maryland Department of Transportation Planning Director Don Halligan said the Centre Street Station is part of a planning process launched last year for redevelopment of the Howard Street corridor. He said the city and state see the opportunity there.

"This is the core of the city. It's the core of the system," he said. "We're trying to develop a strategy for the whole corridor so these small places don't get lost."

Fair enough. But there's something about "corridor strategies" that sounds suspiciously like decades of talk. A thought should be given to jump-starting development within a block of the station  and building out from there. Filling in that dark gap would connect Seton Hill with Mount Vernon and encourage people to use the station after the sun goes down.

But before we start drawing up a 20-year plan, could the city  and state please get together and  improve the lighting at the station? Now.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:18 PM |
Categories: Light rail

April 22, 2009

JFX getting even brighter

Earlier this month, the Getting There column reported that many of the burned-out lights along the Jones Falls Expressway had been replaced after a complaint from a  reader.

Well, it seems the city Department of Transportation has decided its work is not yet finished. It announced Wednesday that it would close the right lane of the southbound JFX Saturday from 6:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. for street lighting repairs.

So, please, take it slow that day and let city workers brighten our lives.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:33 PM |

View from the light rail

This morning, for reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with Earth Day, I decided to leave my car at the BWI Business District station and take the light rail into Baltimore.

It had been a few months since I'd taken the light rail into town, so what jumped out at me was the progress being made in clearing the waterfront at Westport for future development. The old eyesores that had blighted the area are gone, and the ground is smoothed-over and apparently ready for construction.

If I rode the light rail regularly, I would probably be tuning out the view from the window. But as an occasional rider, I always enjoy the perspective the light rail ride gives on Baltimore. There's an excellent view of the Hanover Street Bridge, an architectural gem, and the harbor crossing offers glimpses of both the city's industrial underbelly and what remains of the natural shoreline that greeted John Smith.

Anyway, it was an uneventful ride from BWI to Centre Street. There were plenty of free parking spaces. The ticket machines were working. The train was on time. The cars were clean. The wheels stayed on. Riders had plenty of room. Only one fellow rider was talking to himself out loud. The Maryland Transit Administration wasn't screwing up anything that I could see.

Sometimes this much-maligned system works just fine. Let's see how it works out tonight.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:22 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Light rail

New rule on E-ZPass transponders

Reader Larry Goldberg sent in a good question, and I learned something about Maryland Transportation Authority policy I hadn't known before. Said Goldberg:

Recently you wrote about exchanging your old EZ Pass transponder before the July 1 start of new EZ Pass fees. This past Thursday I took a ride to the Fort McHenry Tunnel EZ Pass office to exchange my seven year old EZ Pass transponder and I was informed that since the transponder tested okay no exchange would be allowed. When I mentioned reading an article in the paper stating the transponder could be exchanged prior to the $21 fee being charged the clerk informed me that someone else had mentioned the same article, but the supervisor at the office had prohibited any exchanges for 'live' transponders. The clerk told me however that exchanges of older transponders would be grandfathered in and not be charged a fee when they no longer worked. I will believe that when I see it as somehow I doubt that will be the case.

That guidance sounded fishy to me, too, so I asked the press office at the authority what the real story was. According to spokeswoman Kelly Melhem, there is no "grandfather" policy. She said that if your transponder gives up the ghost after June 30, you will have to pay $21 for a new one -- unless it's less than 4 years old.

 Of course, if your transponder dies before the new policy takes effect July 1, you're in luck. You get a free replacement without cost. But the authority isn't letting customers hasten the demise of their units.

 So in effect, the new transponders will have a four-year warranty even though their anticipated life is about seven years. Melhem didn't know the rationale for the four-year cutoff but is seeking the answer. Stay tuned.

One observation: The authority needs to do a better job of getting out the word on its policies to the people working the desks at its E-ZPass centers. This isn't the first time I've heard complaints about misinformation being dispensed by authority employees.

Reminder: If you do have multiple transponders on multiple accounts, you can save money by consolidating them onto a single account before the new $1.50-a-month fee goes into effect July 1. A smart move would be to keep your newest transponder and turn in the older ones for a free and fresh one. You've got a little more than two months to do so.






Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

April 21, 2009

ICC continues to roil Montgomery politics

The proposed Inter-county Connector is well on its way to construction, but controversy continues to dog the much-fought-over toll road between the Interstate 95 and Interstate 270 corridors.

Montgomery County is now in the throes of a heated primary race over a vacant County Council seat. Over at Maryland Politics Watch, Adam Pagnucco does an admirable job of dissecting the ICC's ramifications in that race. Read his lengthy article here.

Before you post a comment calling for a halt to ICC construction and diversion of the money to other uses, you  should  know it's not that easy. The ICC financing package is separate from other revenue streams and the money can't be easily shifted into the transportation trust fund or the general fund.

ICC foes should also realize that any halt to construction would  break construction contracts, throw people out of work and lead to a blizzard of lawsuits that the state would likely lose. Not to  mention that it would leave an ugly scar on the land instead of a well-landscaped parkway. It would also be political suicide for Gov. Martin O'Malley, who does not appear to be in any hurry to get off the stage.

You can still argue that the ICC was a bad idea, but the battle against it was effectively lost when the U.S. district  judge threw out the opponents' lawsuit. But as Pagnucco's article points out, karma has a way with catching up with the winners in any dispute. 



Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:12 PM |
Categories: On the roads

We all hate aggressive driving (except when we do it)

"Do as I say, not as I do" appears to be the No. 1 rule of the road, according to a report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Tuesday.

 According to the report, about 8 in 10 people contacted in a national telephone survey identified aggressive driving as a serious or extremely serious problems. Nevertheless, about half of drivers reported that they themselves indulged in driving behavior that is considered aggressive -- such as exceeding highway speed limits by more than 15 mph.

According to the AAA Foundation study, based on its analysis of  statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 56 percent of fatal crashes involve one or more acts that characterize aggressive driving. Examples of aggressive driving, according to the foundation, include speeding, running stoplights and stop signs, failing to yield right of way, preventing other drivers from passing, illegal use of the shoulder and tailgating. I would add refusing to let drivers merge when they signal their intent to do so.

 “If you find yourself driving slowly in the passing lane, tailgating, or doing other things to teach the other driver a lesson, you are also part of the problem,” said foundation president Peter Kissinger. “An aggressive driving act by one driver can trigger a disproportionate and potentially violent reaction from another driver.”

In other words, what goes around comes around. It pays to drive as if every other person on the road has a loaded gun in the glove compartment and is having a lousy day.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:47 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

Driving test article brings back memories

Lou DiMarino of Bel Air writes that he got a kick out of an article in last week's Baltimore Sun reporting that the Motor Vehicle Administration plans to require new driver's license applicants to pass a test that includes an on-road examination. That article quoted David Nevins, co-chairman of the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation, in support of the concept.

"If you or David Nevins lived in the metropolitan area of Maryland in the 1950's, putting the driving test back on the road is like going back to the future. In the 50's the MVA was on Guilford Avenue & 21st Street and that's the way we all took our driving test. You drove the streets around the old Poly High School and did the parking test at the curb in front of the MVA. Also, you hoped it wasn't near lunch time because your buddies might be taking a smoke break on Poly's duck pond (Poly's athletic field - Ha! Ha!); and they would give you the old raspberries.

Also, the Poly boys really gave the girls a fit if they saw one take her driving test. I think the MVA driving testers would make the girls go by the old duck pond to see if they would get rattled."

There's an idea for MVA Administrator John T. Kuo to take into consideration in designing the new tests.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:00 AM |

April 20, 2009

The 'city that paves' goes for 200-plus again

Look for Mayor Sheila Dixon to roll out her plans Tuesday for Operation Orange Cone, her multiyear campaign to repave Baltimore's much-abused streets.

At a news conference, the mayor is expected to outline plans to pave more than 200 lane-miles of roads this year. According to the mayor's office, the city resurfaced more than 220 lane-miles last year -- more than double the totals from the two previous years. 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:38 PM | | Comments (6)

Drunk-driving foes disappointed

While advocates of highway safety are hailing the General Assembly legislative session that ended a week ago as an overall success, activists on the narrower issue of drunk driving came away disappointed.

Certainly, legislators struck two blows for common sense by approving speed cameras in work and school zones and by outlawing driving while texting. They also extended the time that young people will have to drive under learner's permits from six months to nine months -- a terrific idea for many reasons.

But Maryland legislators have traditionally been reluctant to crack down too hard on drunk driving - and this year was no different as they severely watered down an already modest package of bills recommended by an Assembly-mandated task force and supported by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The results, said Maryland MADD executive director Caroline Cash, were "certainly not what we were hoping for."

Cash said MADD was pleased that the Assembly extended the "lookback" period in which an individual cannot get a second probation before judgment in drunk driving cases from five years to 10. The group likewise applauded the passage of a bill to stiffen the penalty for driving on a license suspended by the Motor Vehicle Administration.

MADD's biggest concern was the gutting of a bill aimed at curbing drinking by young people by tying such offenses to their legal ability to drive. Cash said her greatest concern was an amendment tacked on the bill by Sen. Robert Zirkin that makes it difficult to charge an underage person with illegally consuming alcohol unless the officer could also prove possession.

According to MADD and its allies, that provision makes it easy for a young person to avoid sanctions through the simple expedient of tossing the can or bottle of alcoholic beverage into the woods. Cash said the measure has been ruined to the point where MADD will urge the governor to veto what started out as his own bill.

"It is no longer a bill that will prevent underage drinking to promote the safety of young people," she said.

But MADD ally Kurt Gregory Erickson, president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, won't go as far. Though he calls the amendment to the bill "infuriating," he said it still contains provisions that make it a criminal offense to provide underage drinkers with alcohol. He thinks the bill is worth signing.

Erickson is also disappointed with the fate of Senate Bill 262, which would have cracked down on second offenders of the state's drunk driving laws. The original bill would have treated two convictions on any of the provisions of the law as cause for increased penalties -- whether the offense was for your basic driving-under-the-influence or the lesser charge of driving while impaired or the separate offense of driving under the influence of drugs.

According to Erickson, the Assembly stripped out the harsher treatment for those convicted under the "impaired" statute. That blunts the impact of the bill by about 90 percent because driving-while-drugged is a relatively uncommon offense. Driving while impaired, meanwhile, is a relatively common charge upon which drunks are frequently convicted after refusing to take a breath test or after cutting a deal with the prosecutor. People convicted under that count are generally lucky drunks rather than less dangerous drunks.

There was a fifth bill in the governor's package having to do with collection of blood samples from drivers in serious crashes -- purportedly for research purposes. Hearings showed that billl was a mess and deserved to be squashed. Even its supposed advocates gave up on it.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:26 AM |

April 17, 2009

State offers free car care

You can look at it as free or you can look at it as something you've already paid for with your tax dollars. But on either score, the offer of free car care looks like a good deal.

The Maryland Department of the Environment is teaming up with three partners to offer a free car care clinic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Loyola College's Transportation Facility, 5104 York Road in Baltimore.

The clinic offers a 10-15 minute inspection to help motorists identify problems that could turn into major repairs if not fixed. Among the items technicians will look for are loose gas caps, underinflated tires, faulty thermostats, poor wheel alignment and worn spark plugs.

According to the environment department, these problems can increase emission of ozone, carbon and other pollutants. That's on top of costing you money in extra fuel.

 The department's partners in the venture are the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, 311 Garage and Precision Tune Auto Care of Cockeysville and Towson. If you don't live nearby, no problem. The department holds such clinics at various locations around the region on a regular basis. Information on clinics can be found at the MDE's Web site.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:34 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

April 16, 2009

Ruppersberger sees thaw at CSX

I ran into U.S. Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger at the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation gathering in Columbia Thursday and we had a brief chat about relations with CSX Corp. -- the giant freight railroad with a long history of prickly relationships with state and local governments.

Ruppersberger, who said he found CSX difficult to deal with during his 1994-2002 stint as Baltimore County Executive, said he's been chatting regularly and cordially with CSX Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward.

Ward, a Baltimore native, took over as CEO in 2003 -- two years after the Howard Street Tunnel Fire. That derailment and fire strained relations with the city administration of then-Mayor Martin O'Malley.

The nation's freight railroads, which are both regulated and protected by the federal government, have been known in the past to treat local elected officials with ill-concealed disdain over such matters as the security of hazardous cargo.In Maryland, there has been tension over the use of CSX tracks for MARC commuter service and the importance of replacing the century-old Howard Street Tunnel.

 Ruppersberger said he has noticed a climate change in recent discussions. "I have really seen a major difference," the Second District Democrat said.

It might seem like a small thing, but Maryland and Baltimore have a lot to gain from a more productive interaction with CSX. And with a Maryland guy, state Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, slated for the No. 2 post at the U.S. Department of Transportation, CSX might have something to gain as well.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:18 PM | | Comments (3)

Parents of texting victim vow to return

Russell and Kim Hurd, an Abingdon couple who lost their 26-year-old daughter in a Florida highway crash that was blamed on a trucker who was sending a text message, helped persuade the Maryland General Assembly to pass a bill this year banning the practice of sending text messages while driving.

They told the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation Thursday that they would be back in Annapolis next year in an effort to extend the ban to reading text messages and using hand-held cell phones. The couple appeared before legislative committees to tell their story earlier this year.

 Russell Hurd spoke at a breakfast organized by the foundation at Apple Ford in Columbia after showing a video tracing the life of his daughter, Heather Leigh Hurd, from her birth in 1981 to her death on Jan. 3, 2008 -- the day she was supposed to meet with her parents to plan her wedding.

Hurd called the bill that passed this year, which bans texting behind the wheel but allows a driver to check incoming messages, "a watered-down version," but added, "We'll take it."

"We will fight on for a comprehensive ban on hand-held cell phones in 2010," he said.

 Hurd also called upon employers to impose rules requiring their workers to use seat belts and avoid texting while driving company vehicles.

 One employer who took action this week was Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who told the foundation he has issued an executive order banning the use of hand-held electronic devices to write, send or read text messages or e-mails while driving county cars.

Ulman's order does not include speaking on hand-held cell phones, but he said he is considering taking such an action as well. Foundation co-chairman said Ulman is the first county executive in Maryland to issue an executive order prohibiting all forms of texting.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:48 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads

April 14, 2009

GPS = Going Places Slowly

I was heading to Glen Arm from Morrell Park over the weekend using the Fort McHenry Tunnel when I came to the newly reconfigured, still-a-work-in-progress interchange of Interstate 95 and the Beltway. I decided to put my Garmin GPS system with the lovely feminine voice to the test. I suspended my own local knowledge and just followed her instruction to the letter.

She flunked.

Acting on her instruction, I got into the left lane headed toward New York. Wrong move. It made it impossible to get on the new, soaring overhead ramp that leads to the westbound Beltway. We ended up taking a detour via White Marsh Boulevard.

It was an illustration of something everyone who gets a GPS system should know: These systems are far from perfect. Not only will they lag behind the news of a reconfigured interchange, they have a host of quirks motorists need to look out for.

My Garmin system sometimes has a problem figuring out complicated interchanges and giving instructions in a timely manner. At certain key forks when a motorist faces a confusing choice, such as whether to take northbound U.S. 1 or Alternate U.S. 1 where they split near Relay, it has no advice to give. If you aren't a local, you're on you're own. 

Then, there's its bias toward the straight line at the expense of the quickest route. Plot a course from Columbia to Parkville, and she's likely to take you through the heart of the city -- consistently underestimating the time lost to stop-and-go traffic. The same happens when you're returning to Baltimore from Annapolis: She wants you to take Route 2, when anyone with an ounce of local road savvy know Interstate 97 is faster.

When you travel with her through rural stretches such as central Pennsylvania, she's likely to pick out routes you would have never found on a state or national road map -- tiny, twisting farm roads you never knew were there. That's actually one of the cooler features as far as I'm concerned, but I wouldn't want to be directed onto those roads at night or in a snowstorm.

 This critique is not a rejection of my GPS lady -- far from it. I think she's adorable -- even if her voice sounds exasperated when I make her repeat "recalculating" by rejecting her advice. There have been many times when she got me to unfamilar places without a hitch and without the distraction of having to read printed directions.

But if you use GPS, it's important to learn the system's idiosyncracies. Don't hesitate to go with your own local knowledge and override its advice. You're the boss. And your operating system is more sophisticated than hers.

 Anyone out there have some interesting stories of GPS quirks to relate? Please do.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:17 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

Call for help from a railroad buff

Charlie Pyles of Cold Spring, Ky., has a request that may be of interest to Maryland railroad and history buffs: “I was wondering if you would ask your readers to share information and photos they may have of the Western Maryland Railroad. I have a project started that revolves around the Elkins Yard down in Elkins, W.V., but I’m seeking unpublished photos of Western Maryland trains and stories with photos of Western Maryland people. All material will be scanned or photographed and promptly returned to the donor in the same condition received. Any materials are intended to be used on the web site The purpose of the project is to keep the memory of the WM alive for future generations. Information can be mailed to: Charlie Pyles, 238 Misty Cove Way, Cold Spring, KY 41076-8513. Phone calls are welcome 859-442-7334 or e-mail”  Sounds like a worthy project to me. Feel free to copy this blog on any particularly fine pictures.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:00 AM |
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads

April 13, 2009

Porcari appointment: deja vu all over again?

There's an interesting wrinkle to the White House's announcement last Friday that President Obama intends to appoint Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari to the No. 2 post in the federal Department of Transportation under Republican Secretary Ray LaHood.

 This would be the second time Porcari would be serving as the Democratic deputy to a Republican transportation secretary in a Democratic administration. He previously served as deputy to Maryland Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead, a Republican who held that position during Gov. Parris N. Glendening's first term.

After winning re-election in 1998, Glendening jettisoned Winstead and named Porcari secretary - a posiition he occupied for the next four years.

 One could argue that Porcari's experience makes him especially well-qualified for his projected new role. One could also wonder about past and prologue and how these pairings tend to play out.

  Porcari said he has meet with LaHood and looks forward to advancing the secretary's agenda.

 Winstead said Porcari was a loyal and able deputy who "worked very well with me."

"I don't have any doubt in terms of his ability to support Mr. LaHood," said Winstead, who is now back to practicing law. "He understands that transportation [affects] everybody and to some extent it's a nonpartisan issue."






Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:00 PM |

How Maryland gains from Porcari appointment

President Obama's expected appointment of Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari as the No. 2 official at the federal Department of Transportation could bring some important benefits to Maryland -- but not as a result of any favoritism in doling out funds. I wouldn't count on Porcari to put his thumb on the scales for anyone, even his home state.

  Where he could have a big impact is in dealing with the nation's rail systems. Having been Maryland's transportation chief, he is fully up to speed on such problems as the bottlenecks on the main north-south freight route on the Eastern Seaboard -- one of which just happens to be Baltimore's Howard Street Tunnel. You don't have to be a Marylander to understand the importance of building a replacement tunnel, but it helps.

It's hard to overstate the importance of this project for Maryland. Not only does Baltimore remain at risk of a repeat of the 2001 tunnel fire, but the ancient infrastructure won't accommodate double-stack trains, a serious drag on the port of Baltimore.

Neither will Porcari need a briefing to understand Amtrak's need to upgrade its century-old tunnel south of Baltimore's Penn Station. No upgrade of the Northeast Corridor line will be complete until that tunnel is rebuilt or replaced.

 If Maryland gets nothing more out of Porcari's appointment than advocacy for these two nationally important projects, it will come out well ahead.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:00 AM |

More on MARC from MTA chief

I had the chance to sit down with Maryland Transit Administration chief Paul Wiedefeld last week to talk about MARC service, and he had a lot more to say than I could fit into the Getting There column of The Sun.

Wiedefeld, by the way, is one of the most capable people I've dealt with in state government, though he holds a job that might as well have been designed to make its occupant look bad. You can make a good case that MTA administrator is the toughest job in state government. Governor doesn't even come close.

I put to Wiedefeld some questions that came out of a recent meeting with MARC riders. For instance, when MARC has one of its meltdowns and a trainload of passengers ends up sitting for hours, why doesn't the MTA simply let riders off the train?

Wiedefeld explained that emptying a train is more complicated than it might appear because Amtrak and CSX are continuing to operate on parallel tracks even while a MARC train is stuck. That's particularly tricky on the Penn Line, where Amtrak is running high-speed Acela trains and where MARC trains are often on the middle track.

 "You've got trains going by there at 120 mph. You can't just have people wandering around," Wiedefeld said. "They are on you very, very quickly and they're quiet."

Sometimes, he said, the only alternative is to wait until a MARC train can be pushed or pulled to a station. One problem, he said, is that breakdowns often happen at peak hours, when it's difficult to find buses to press into service.

Wiedefeld said one suggestion raised by riders -- keeping trains in reserve to bail out stalled locomotives -- wouldn't work. He said MARC would have to keep three trains in reserve -- one for each line -- and those would come right out of peak-time capacity. In other words, there would be fewer and more crowded trains.

"The key is better equipment, and that's what we have been focusing on," he said. Wiedefeld is pinning his hopes for better performance on the delivery of 26 new locomotives to replace an aged fleet that has been spending far too much time in the repair shop. He expects them to start coming on line in May. He said some of MARC's crowding issues will be alleviated soon as the MTA adds more of the bilevel cars it recently acquired from Virginia. Two of the 13 cars are already in service, he said.

Wiedefeld, who has produced a 28-year plan for MARC expansion, acknowledged that the program has been slowed down by the recent shortfall in state transportation revenue. "The commitment hasn't changed, but we're all adapting to the financial realities we're in," he said.

Wiedefeld said he understands riders' frustration when trains are delayed and nobody tells them what's going on. But sometimes, he said, it takes a while for Amtrak and CSX to inform MARC officials of what is going on. "We can only convey it when we get it," he said, adding that the MTA is working with the two railroads to improve communications.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)

April 10, 2009

GPS systems can be turned on their owners

Tracy Noble has an interesting posting on AAA's Cars & Driving blog about a Good Morning America segment telling how GPS systems, if stolen, can lead criminals right to the owner's home.

 Noble has a cunning suggestion for reprogramming the devices. Check it out.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:08 AM | | Comments (1)

April 9, 2009

AAA raises alarm on traffic safety bills

With four days left, the 2009 Maryland General Assembly session could still turn out to be "either a banner year or a complete bust" for traffic safety legislation, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. AAA points out that many of the most important measures proposed this session are coming down to the wire. The bills up in the air address such topics as teen driving, speed cameras, texting while driving and drunk driving.

 “For Traffic Safety in Maryland, it’s now literally do or die for a number of key measures designed to save lives on Maryland’s highways,” AAA spokeswoman Ragina Averella said. “If all of these measures were to pass, it would be a monumental year for traffic safety in Maryland, and we are urging legislators to make that happen.” Some of these bills have passed one house, while others have passed both the House and the Senate in different forms and must be reconciled before adjournment Monday night, allowing them to go to the governor.

 I checked with The Baltimore Sun's Gadi Dechter in Annapolis, and he said Gov. Martin O'Malley's speed camera bill, amended to apply to work and school zones only, is well on its way to final passage. The Senate version, free of amendments, received preliminary approval in the House Friday. One drunk driving measure that would seem to be a no-brainer is apparently hung up in the House Judiciary Committee -- a notorious graveyard of common sense legislation. The bill would require a yearlong driver's license suspension for anyone convicted twice of any of Maryland's drunk-driving offenses. The Senate has passed the measure. Two bills that have passed already would make it more difficult for repeat drunk drivers to get a second probation before judgment and would stiffen the penalties for people who violate an alcohol restriction imposed by the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Key Md Traffic Safety bills Still Rolling; Will they finish safely or crash & Burn? Auto Club Urges Legislators To Pass Bills To Save Lives TOWSON, MD (April 9, 2009) – The Maryland Legislature is poised to make this either a banner year or a complete bust for traffic safety legislation, and with just four working days left in the 2009 General Assembly Session, it could still go either way, according to Ragina C. Averella, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “For Traffic Safety in Maryland, it’s now literally do or die for a number of key measures designed to save lives on Maryland’s highways,” the AAA spokeswoman noted. Bills are still being considered that would crack down on drunk drivers, tighten teen driving laws, outlaw texting while driving, and allow automated speed cameras in school and work zones. “If all of these measures were to pass, it would be a monumental year for traffic safety in Maryland, and we are urging legislators to make that happen,” Averella said. “They can save lives by enacting these measures. The Legislature has the power, by passing these bills, to make Maryland’s roads much safer by reducing highway fatalities and injuries.” In 2006, over 651 lives were lost in crashes, 53,615 were injured, and 225 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, (approximately 34% of total fatalities) in the state of Maryland. “We can do better, and these various legislations would improve those numbers, no question,” Averella said. “It’s been a long time since we have seen this many important traffic safety measures still on the table and viable this late in the session,” said Averella. “Governor Martin O’Malley deserves significant credit because many of the bills are, in fact, ‘administration bills.’ The fact that the Governor made key drunk driving and teen driving measures as well as speed enforcement ‘administration bills’ certainly added gravitas to them.” “As administration bills, these measures have also enjoyed major support from House and Senate leadership which has also been very helpful and probably explains why so many safety measures are still alive with just four working days left,” Averella continued. “Sine Die”, the close of the Maryland legislative session, comes next Monday night at 11:59 p.m. Measures still pending that AAA terms critical to highway safety include: · Teen Driving Bills – Although both the House and Senate have passed their respective versions of the bill, final amendments are still being addressed. · Statewide Speed Camera Bill – If passed, it will authorize speed cameras in work and school zones. The bill has passed in the Senate and is currently before the House pending action. · Texting while Driving Ban – A House version and Senate version of the bills have passed and are now being considered in alternate Committees. · Drunk Driving Bills: o Underage Drinking Bill – This bill targets both underage drinkers in Maryland, by criminalizing alcohol-consumption, as well as imposing a criminal penalty for those who unlawfully supply underage persons with alcohol. This bill has faced numerous amendments, which have weakened the original intent of the bill, specifically as it relates to criminalizing consumption. The bill, as amended has passed the Senate and is pending action in the House Judiciary Committee. o Mandatory Licensure Suspension – This bill, if passed would mandate a one-year driver's license suspension for anyone convicted twice of ANY of Maryland's impaired driving statutes. The House version of this bill has not been voted on in either the House Judiciary Committee or the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The Senate-version has passed the full Senate, but has not been voted on in the House Judiciary Committee. Several other key drunk driving bills have already passed this year and are expected to become law, including legislation that will: o impose more stringent sanctions on drunk drivers by increasing the time period for a subsequent Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) finding from 5 to 10 years; and o provide for fines up to $500 and up to two months incarceration for persons violating an MVA-imposed driver's license alcohol restriction; “That this many important safety bills are alive this late is an outstanding indicator, but all too often we lose strong bills in the last hours and minutes, regardless of their merits,” noted Averella, who has also lobbied the Legislature on traffic safety issues on behalf of AAA for the last four years and is a former Baltimore police officer. “We are urging legislators not to let that happen this year. For the budgets, this year is a real killer, but for traffic safety, this year could be a real savior, and that’s what we are asking the legislators to consider—Make the 2009 session a Banner Year for Traffic Safety. AAA Mid-Atlantic is based in Wilmington, Del., and serves nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey with personal insurance, financial, automotive and travel services through 53 retail branches, regional operations centers and the Internet, at
Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:00 PM |
Categories: On the roads

This just in from the MTA

The following email landed from the Maryland Transit Administration today, apparently intended for the time travelers in its customer base:



 Local bus, Metro Subway and Light Rail saves time and money

BALTIMORE, MD (April 9, 2009) – Baseball fans are encouraged to take MTA public transit to the Orioles’ home season opener on Monday, April 6 against the New York Yankees in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. MTA Light Rail drops you off right at the front door of Oriole Park, so you can arrive relaxed, refreshed and ready to cheer. With MTA Local Bus or Metro Subway, parking and traffic hassles disappear. During late innings MTA riders don’t have to leave early to beat the rush out of the parking lot. MTA customers can go home a winner every game.

  etc., etc. etc.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:16 PM |

AAA launches web site on drunk driving

I had a chance to browse through AAA's new web site for criminal justice professionals on drunk-driving issues The site, AAA's DUI JusticeLink, brings together an impressive amount of information on issues including detection, prosecution, punishment and treatment in cases of driving under the influence.

AAA is pitching this web site as a resource for judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, probation officers and others involved in efforts to curb drunken driving. It ought to be useful for all of these groups, but I would hope it could also be a research tool for educators and their students. High school honors class teachers, take notice.

The site can be found at

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:00 AM |
Categories: On the roads

The Great E-ZPass Fee Exodus

Remember the big hullabaloo about the $1.50 fee on E-ZPass accounts the Maryland Transportation Authority adopted in January? All those folks threatening to close their accounts and bring the system to its knees? Preliminary figures are in, and the rate of defection appears to bear out the authority's calculation that most E-ZPass users aren't going to flock to the slow lanes to save $18 a year.

According to the authority, account closures in the six months before the fee proposal averaged 642. In January, there were 796 account closures, 178 of them explicity in response to the new policy. In February, after the authority formally acted, there were 843 closures -- 195 because of the fee. In March the number of account closures rose to 996 but only 122 closures account-holders blamed the fees for their decision.

 According to the authority, there were 542,000 active E-ZPass accounts in Maryland as of February. So if you go by the number of customers who actually attributed theiir defection to the fee, you get an attrition rate of about 0.1 percent. If you go by the difference from the average rate of account closings, the number soars to about 0.15 percent. The authority doesn't jknow whether those who canceled were frequent or sporadic users, but common sense suggests that the fee refugees are skewed in the direction of light users. Those are precisely the folks that the system has been losing money on by subsidizing their participation. Of course, there are still three months to go before the fees take effect in July.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:00 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

April 8, 2009

Lights out on 33rd St.

An e-mail from Linda Forlifer of Baltimore resulted in my learning a lot more about Baltimore streetlights than I knew before.

She wrote:

"Perhaps you can help get the street lights working on 33rd Street. I did call 311, about 3 weeks ago. Then, when no repair had occurred, I called BGE about 2 weeks ago. Three street lights in a row are out (south side of East 33rd, in front of 311 E 33rd and then the next two toward Barclay). I explained to BGE that these lights have repeatedly gone out all together for the past few years. They'll be out for a month or more, then they're working for a few months, then they go out again. BGE can't seem to figure out what's wrong and fix it so that it stays fixed."

 So I contacted Adrienne Barnes at the city Department of Transportation to find out what's going on. She put me in touch with Richard Hooper, division chief of maintenance for the department, for a short course in Baltimore Street Lights.

What I learned is that while the city owns the streetlights in Baltimore, about 75 percent of them are on BGE cables. The other 25 percent are on city-owned cables. To tell the difference, look for a three- or four-digit number in black and gold. That number means it's on a BGE cable. No number means it's on city cable.

Where the poles are on BGE cables -- like those on 33rd --  the city has a contract with the utility for their maintenance. So if you call the city's 311 line about a BGE-connected streetlight, the city passes on the word to the company. If it's a simple matter of a light bulb being out, the repair should be completed within five days, Hooper said. But if the problem is with the cable, it might need replacement, which is more difficult.

 "It takes a while," Hooper said. He noted that BGE might have to dig up the sidewalk, do the work and then replace the sidewalk. Under its contract with the city, BGE has 25 days from when it is notified to start the work, which can take another week to complete.

Hooper urged citizens to use the 311 system rather than contacting BGE directly. He said that when an individual reports a problem, he or she will be given a service request number. According to Hooper, people can use that number to track the progress of their requests on the city government web site,

According to that web site, which is not particularly easy to navigate, the work on the lights  in the 300 block of East 33rd Street should begin by April 20. Sometime before May 1, there should be light.

If there isn't, drop me a line at



Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:12 AM |
Categories: On the roads

JFX to get a little less bumpy

Raymond Daniel Burke of the Ober Kaler law firm wrote Monday to ask: "Can someone explain why there are several almost speed-bump-like humps in the northbound Jones Falls (Expressway) between the City line and Ruxton Road? Are they an economic stimulus concept for front-end alignment shops?" That segment of the JFX is maintained by the State Highway Administration, and it was to Charlie Gischlar of that agency that I referred Burke's question. The reply came back Tuesday. According to Gischlar, SHA inspectors went to the site Monday night and determined that the pavement had buckled and repairs were indeed necessary. He said the agency has scheduled temporary repairs to the two left lanes for Wednesday night starting at 11 p.m. and continuing until 5 a.m. Thursday -- if weather permits. The SHA will make permanent repairs in late summer or early fall, Gischlar said. He suggested that some motorists might want to avoid delays by using Falls Road. Those who stay on the JFX should slow down when going through the work zone, he said. JFX users can thank Burke for a smoother ride. Save some credit for the highway folks' quick reaction.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:20 AM |
Categories: On the roads

April 7, 2009

U.S. traffic deaths drop to 47-year low: UPDATE

Here's an update to my earlier post about highway deaths. Karen Aldana, spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, provided the agency's view of what -- in addiition to a nationwide decline in miles driven -- contributed to the dramatic drop in U.S. highway deaths in 2008.

 Aldana said factors included more seat belt use, safer vehicles and stronger enforcement of drunk-driving laws.

 In other news coming out of Washington, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a 17 percent drop in work zone fatalities and injuries in 2007 -- the sharpest decline since the government started tracking the statistics. Figures for 2008 are not yet available.

The number of fatalities in work zones dropped from 1,004 in 2006 to 835 in 2007, according to the Department of Transportation. LaHood announced the decline as part of a national push to raise awareness of the hazard of highway work zones.

In Maryland, legislation is working its way through the General Assembly that would permit the statewide use of speed cameras in work zones as well as near schools.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:57 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

U.S. traffic deaths drop to 47-year low

The number of traffic deaths in the United States dropped to the lowest level since 1961 last year as skyrocketing gas prices and economic recession cut into the number of miles Americans drove. The estimated 37,313 deaths reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration represent a 9.1 percent decline from the 41,059 fataliities recorded in 2007.

 I don't know about you, but I think this is a big deal. It means there are more than 3,700 inhabitants of this country alive today than would have been if the figure had remained flat. It's akin to avoiding a tragedy of 9/11 proportions. One obvious explanation has been the decline in vehicle miles traveled reported by the Federal Highway Administration. But that decline of 3.6 percent hardly accounts for the entiire decrease in road fatalities. We must be doing something else right.

 Maryland played its small part in the decline. According to the State Highway Administration's latest estimate, traffic deaths in Maryland dropped last year to 586, compared with 615 in 2007. Both the federal and state numbers are preliminary. 

One contributor to the decline in fatalities may be a corresponding increase in the use of seat belts. The highway safety agency reported that seat belt use reached 83 percent nationwide.

The rate was even higher in Maryland. where drivers achieved seat belt use of 93.3 percent. That number put Maryland in sixth place in the federal government's  annual ranking of seat belt use by state. It marked a small improvement on 2007's figure of 93.1 percent but a dramatic increase from the 82.9 percent recorded in 2001.

The states that posted higher percentages than Maryland last year were Michigan, with an astonishing 97.2 percent, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California. All, like Maryland, have laws that make failure to wear a seat belt a primary traffic offense -- meaning a police officer can pull over a motorist for failing to wear a belt even if there is no other violation.

I can't explain it, but the lowest rate of seat belt use among the 50 states was recorded in Massachusetts -- at 66.8 percent. Despite its reputation as a bastion of nanny state liberalism, the Bay State does not have a primary seat belt law. Also below 70 percent were Wyoming and and New Hampshire, where the state motto is "Live Free and Die" -- or something like that.

 For more details, visit the NHTSA web site at

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:25 AM |
Categories: On the roads

Getting There: Begin the Blogging

Welcome to Getting There: The Blog, the place for the latest news on transportation – in Baltimore, Maryland the nation and sometimes the world. In this space, I will be covering topics including commuting, mass transit, tolls vs. taxes, travel strategies, highway safety, traffic law enforcement, Amtrak and BWI. I am hoping to foster a free-wheeling exchange with plenty of lively -- but good-natured -- give and take. You'll find news here as well as some opinions that won't reflect the views of The Baltimore Sun or its editors. Your host has a thick skin, and commenters are free to raise pointed questions about his sanity, intelligence, judgment and looks. But please note that the site is monitored and postings that veer outside the bounds of decorum will be omitted. Please include your name and hometown, which will be posted except when agreed otherwise. Don't include private information such as other people's phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Feel free to criticize public figures, but not your neighbors down the street. Even if they do drive like maniacs. And remember, friends don’t let friends pay Delaware Turnpike tolls. Bon voyage!
Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)
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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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