baltimoresun.com

« September 2009 | Main | November 2009 »

October 31, 2009

Shock-Trauma program has powerful impact

The R. Adams Cowley Shock-Trauma Center did its best to discourage new customers Thuesday night  in a presentation at the elite Gilman School that the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation wants to bring to the masses.

After a news conference at which the foundation announced its partnership with Shock-Trauma in a bid to expand the educational program to every school system in Maryland,  nurses Debbie Yohn and Beverly Dearing gave the Gilman boys a vivid description of what they can expect to go through if they end up being taken to the center as a result of a traffic crash.

Particularly affecting was a video in which a young man named Sean -- brought to Shock-Trauma with irreversible brain damage he suffered in a crash -- lives out his final hours on a ventilator as his grieving father describes in unsparing terms what led to the crash. Sean,  it turns out, had been smoking marijuana while driving around with a group of friends and ran a stop sign. He and a young woman passenger -- neither of them wearing seat belts -- were fatally injured.

"He thought he was invincible," the unnamed father said. "It's not natural for a parent to bury a child. Don't put your parents through this."

 

The video was  followed by a talk by Kyle Gimbel, 23, who was 17 when  he drove his car into a tree by the side of York Road at an estimated 60-65 mph.

Gimbel, whose speech remains impaired by the brain injuries he suffered in that crash, told the boys he had been drinking  just before the crash. The former high school wrestler told them he nearly died several times but was pulled back from the brink by the emergency team at Shock-Trauma. He showed pictures of this car before and after the crash. The "after" shot made me wonder how anyone could have survived the impact.

After nearly a month at Shock-Trauma, Gimbel was transferred to Kernan Hospital for rehabilitation. He said he has learned to walk and use his arms again, but still struggles with the after-effects. Gimbel said his brain still doesn't work as it should and that his course work at Howard County Community College is a struggle.

Whether any of this penetrated the skulls of the high school students in a meaningful way is hard to determine. Some experts say teenagers are highly impervious to "shock and awe" tactics when it comes to their own driving behaviors. I certainly did a lot of stupid things behind the wheel after seeing those infamous Ohio Highway Patrol films.

But as Shock-Trauma board member Andy Billig put it, if it gets through to enough kids to save one life, that's good reason to spread the presentation throughout the state.

One suggestion for the presenters: Hit harder on the issue of multiple teenage passengers in a vehicle. There are statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing how the risks go up exponentially the more passengers are in a car with a teenager at the wheel -- especially at night. Even if the kids aren't deterred, you might get through to any parents in the room.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:41 AM |
Categories: On the roads
        

October 30, 2009

Lanes to close on Harbor Tunnel Thruway

Look out this weekend for lane closings on the eastern end of the Harbor Tunnel Thruway (Interstate 895).

The Maryland Transportation Authority plans to close one eastbound and one westbound lane of the thruway tonight at 9 p.m. for emergency deck repairs. The lanes will remain closed until 9 a.m. Sunday.

The westbound lane will be closed from O'Donnell Street to the tunnel entrance. The eastbound lane will be closed from the tunnel to past Holabird Avenue. Exit 10 will be closed.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:31 AM |
Categories: Maryland toll facilities
        

Key Bridge becoming more E-ZPass-friendly

If you have an E-ZPass, crossing the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge is going to get a bit easier. If you're paying cash, maybe not.

In response to increased E-ZPass use, the Maryland Transportation Authority is changing its lane configuration at the Key Bridge. The change will cut the number of lanes with toll collectors and increase the number that take E-ZPass only.

Currently there are three E-ZPass-only lanes in each direction and three that take both the passes and cash. After the change is implemented this weekend, there will be four E-ZPass-only and two pass-or-cash lanes each way.

The changes will also group the E-ZPass only lans to the left and the mixed-use lanes to the right. The change will create an E-ZPass-only lane on the right side of the toll plaza that trucks can use.

The authority said the changes will improve traffic flow and allow motorists to get to the right lanes more efficiently. The agency said 70 percent of vehicles on the bridge now use E-ZPass.

Obviously, this means fewer toll plaza lanes will be staffed by human collectors. For cash customers, that can only mean more waiting. However, the Key Bridge is one of the least congested Maryland toll facilities so maybe it won't be too bad.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:05 AM |
Categories: Maryland toll facilities
        

October 29, 2009

More Amtrak problems for MARC

What is it with Amtrak and New Carrollton anyway?

On Wednesday morning Amtrak had a locomotive fire near the Prince George's County station, delaying MARC service by an hour or more. This afternoon, another Amtrak engine is disabled south of  New Carrollton causing "major disruptions" on the Penn Line, according to the MTA.

Apparently the blockage is forcing northbound and southbound trains to share a single track to get around. To see a list of Penn Line trains affected, click below.

 

 

Penn: Washington Metro will be honoring MARC tickets this afternoon/evening, 29 Oct 2009.

Penn: Marc 433 will be arriving in Washington approx 20-25 minutes late due to single tracking.

Penn: Marc 426 will be arriving in New Carrollton approax 40 mins late.

Penn: Marc 428 will be departing Washington approx 30-40 mins late due the a security hold in Union Station.

Penn: Marc 530 will be departing Washiongton approx 30 minutes late.

Penn: Marc 450 (510pm WAS Dp) has been cancelled.

Meanwhile there's also trouble on the Camden Line. MTA says  Marc 846 will be leave Washington 15-25 mins late due what it calls  a "security hold" in Union Station.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:05 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: MARC train
        

MTA explains that annoying extra rail stop

A reader named Michael recently sent me this email about the Maryland Transit Administration's light rail service:

I recently read your complaint that the MTA doesn't explain the stop between North Ave and Woodberry, which is one of the most annoying aspects of my commute to the county from the city. They stop there so that MTA employees can board the train/switch shifts from the nearby office.

This is absolutely absurd. Half of the time the conductors are late and we are stopped for upwards of 5 minutes. The MTA should change the location of this (switch) to the North Avenue station, which has 3 platforms (thus avoiding back-ups for every train because one employee was late) and could attract more riders who would otherwise have missed their train.

Twice i have missed my transfer to the lightrail because the 13 bus was late and arrived at the platform only to see the train stopped ahead on the tracks for the above mentioned maneuver. Having the train stop in the middle of an empty stretch for 5-10 minutes so that employees can shave 50 yards off their walk is absurd.

MTA spokeswoman Jawauna Greene provided this answer:

Thanks for the chance to respond to your reader's question about trains stopping to change operators. The operator relief point is located at the Light Rail Division rather than a nearby station because reporting for duty is an important part of our safety procedures. When operators report for each shift they receive daily instructions, pick up portable radios and are observed by a supervisor to ensure they are fit for duty. If this took place at a station instead of the division these reporting activities would have to take place in the open which is not practical.

The North Avenue station may seem close to the division but it is actually close to 2/10's of a mile. It would take approximately 10 minutes for the operator to walk this distance, and because shifts begin and end at all times of day and night in all weather conditions MTA would have to safely transport operators back and forth.

When multiplied by the number of reliefs each year, the budget impact of a seemingly small change would be very significant. MTA makes every effort to minimize delay at the relief point, and in most cases it limited to the time it takes one operator to leave the cab and the replacement operator to enter the cab and get settled.

In some cases the train may be running slightly ahead of schedule, and so the train is held until it is back on schedule. Another cause of delay is that for one reason or another the relief operator is not available. In that case, the operator is instructed to continue after holding for five minutes, but this may mean the operator is entitled to a longer break later in his or her shift.

To reduce delays for riders MTA has recently begun limiting time at the relief point to three minutes. Hopefully your reader will notice the difference.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:17 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Light rail
        

October 28, 2009

ICC toll hearing draws little interest

Wednesday night's hearing on the Maryland Transportation Authority's ICC toll proposal in Beltsville brought a sparse response -- most of it predictable complaints about the decision to build the road in the first place.

During the first two hours and ten minutes of the three-hour hearing, only 11 people spoke -- three of them local elected officials. There were long periods where the board stood in recess, waiting to see if any speakers would show up.

Nobody spoke in favor of the authority's toll proposal. But the arguments against it were for the most part unfocused and not very specific. Some argued against collecting tolls at all -- apparently unaware that that train long ago left the station.

Prince George's County Councilman Tom Dernoga made one of the few points that might resonate with the authority board. he pointed out that the proposal of a 3-mile minimum falls hardest on residents of Prince George's County who might want to use the stretch between Interstate 95 and Virginia Manor Road -- a 3/4-mile trip. It's not a big revenue item and it does pose an equity issue to charge them for 3 miles.

But based on the turnout at the first hearing, it's hard to see the board making any big changes to the proposal, which could mean tolls of up to $6 for a one-way trip the full length of the ICC when it opens in late 2011 or early 2012.

There's another hearing Thursday night in Gaithersburg. Those who know are expecting a bigger turnout in Montgomery County.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:49 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities
        

Traffic idiocy: How can one avoid it?

Pardon me while I vent here. Much of my work is taken up with coverage of traffic safety issue. So when I get out of here for a late lunch, all I want is a little peace.

 But the first thing I see when I leave the Sun building is flashing red and blue lights at the corner of Calvert and Centre streets. As I approach the intersection I see a silver SUV overturned on Calvert Street and emergency responders working to extract the driver. (He was alive when loaded into the ambulance, fully strapped down to prevent spinal damage.)

Witnesses said the two-vehicle crash was a case of red-light running by one of the drivers. From the extent of the damage and the fact the SUV rolled, it seemed clear that somebody was going much faster than the speed limit.

Then, as the police worked the scene and I was trying to cross the street with the signal, some joker comes speeding down Centre Street at what must have been 50 mph or more, blows through the red light and nearly knocks me over. Can't a guy just get a little lunch?

Just this morning I had seen another driver run a red light on Baltimore Street.

Forget jousting or lacrosse. It seems clear the real Maryland state sport is Red Light Running.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:13 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

MARC hopes to do better this evening

It was one of those mornings on the MARC Penn Line. An Amtrak engine caught fire at New Carrollton and blocked the line and caused delays that affected Northeast Corridor traffic. The blockage caused MARC delays of an hour or more, according to Maryland Transit Administration spokeswoman Cheron Wicker. Several trains were canceled outright.

Wicker said that at midday, MARC trains were still running 30-40 minutes behind schedule. She said the rail system hopes to have the trains running on time during this evening's peak travel time.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:47 PM |
Categories: MARC train
        

Reader dissents on high-speed rail

Csaba Hanyi of Towson sent along a well-written, reasoned critique of my Oct. 26 column on high-speed rail -- or the lack of it -- in the United States. I though it was worth posting in its entirety, though I disagree with its conclusions.

I read your column about high speed trains with great interest, since I
have been interested in rail travel most of my life. However,
considering some of the facts, I must disagree with some of your
observations.

You probably know that all European governments subsidize their rail
systems by handicapping truck traffic on their highways in order to
force more freight to rail, since the rail needs the revenue to enable
inexpensive commuter traffic.

Similarly, Maryland subsidizes MARC to remove some motor vehicles from
the road between Baltimore, Montgomery county and Washington.
Therefore, MARC is much cheaper to use than Amtrak on the same line.
MARC trains on the Penn Line do exceed 100 mph om some stretches.
The Camden line has obsolete track which prohibits high speed.

High speed rail requires ridership which is willing to pay premium
rates for the comfort, speed and convenience of traveling between
main city centers. This is only possible between major cities with
moderate distances between them. You get that in Europe, Japan, and
China by having high population densities.

In the US you can get the same thing along the Boston - Washington -
Richmond corridor, and we have a reasonably fast train service on
this corridor. When you travel further south or west the cities
get smaller and the distances much greater.

Population density is 598 person/sq mile in Germany, 286 in France,
499 in Italy, 1018 in the Netherlands, and 207 in Spain. The density
is 79 in the US and only 8 in Canada, Mexico is better at 138.
Japan is 873, China is 351. (Source: Time Almanac)

To take some of the hype out of the high speed train numbers, please
consider the following: In May 2009 I traveled in Germany using some of
the ICE trains. Specifically, I was on an ICE between Cologne and
Munich, a distance of about 310 miles. The train left Cologne-Deutz at
17.44 and arrived in Munich at 22.04. That is 4h, 20 min averaging 72
mph. The train made 5 stops: Frankfurt airport, Frankfurt city,
Aschaffenburg, Wurzburg, and Nurnberg. Between Cologne and Fft airport
it averaged 104 mph, and between Nurnberg and Munich 92 mph. The
distances between the other stops yield much lower speeds. The conductor
told me that sometimes we hit over 200 km/hr (125 mph).

By contrast the east coast Acela avarages 57 mph between Boston and New
York (201 miles), and 73 mph between New York and Washington (210
miles). On the northern stretch there are 4 stops, on the southern 5
stops. Clearly the trackage on the southern stretch permits higher
speeds.

Finally, a few remarks about cost: The Acela between Baltimore and NY
cost $212, while for the privilege of riding the German rails for 5 days
(unlimited) I paid $275 (Eu 202).

I believe the US rail system can be speeded up on a few select stretches
(but probably at great expense). At the same time the European high
speed trains run faster but with stops the average speed is not higher.
I have no personal experience with Japan, but believe the numbers would
be similar.

Regards - Csaba Hanyi

Where Mr. Hanyi's argument goes off the rails, I believe, is in his emphasis on population density at the national level. Only the density in the proposed rail corridor is relevant. The vast stretches of Canada's West and North, for instance, have nothing to do with the question of whether a line between Toronto and Montreal would be viable.

I also don't consider subsidy a bad word when the subsidy serves a national interest. I submit there is a national interest in lowering imported fuel usage and vehicle emissions while improving mobility and safety. High-speed rail does all of the above. Staying out of the game only perpetuates the stranglehold that foreign companies have on the train manufacturing business at a time when it is a booming business in China and soon India.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:51 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads
        

Highway agency offers vests for Halloween safety

What kid wouldn't want to go trick-or-treating as a highway worker?

The State Highway Administration is ready to make that possible by lending out the same type  of bright yellow-green or orange vests that its highway workers wear to trick-or-treaters. The agency suggests that with the addition of a hard hat, jeans and boots, a child's costume dilemma would be solved. Otherwise the adult-sized vests can fit over any princess or superhero costume to keep children visible to drivers. Adults who are accompanying trick-or-treaters can borrow vests as well.

The reflective  vests will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis through SHA maintenance shops from 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. each day through Friday, Vests must be returned by Nov. 6.

For a list of SHA maintenance shops taking part in the Vests for Visibility program, click below. (Photo courtesy of State Highway Administration)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


2009 Vests for Visibility
Participating SHA Maintenance Shops
 

Anne Arundel County
Glen Burnie Shop
Stewart Ave
Glen Burnie, MD 21061
410-766-3770

Annapolis Shop
138 Defense Highway
Annapolis, MD  21401
410-841-1009

Baltimore County
Hereford Shop
306 Mount Carmel Road
MD 137 & I-83
Parkton, MD 21120
410-329-6756

Owings Mills Shop
9130 Dolfield Road
Owings Mills, MD 21117
410-329-6756

Golden Ring Shop
8375 Pulaski Highway
Rosedale, MD 21237
410-574-4511

Calvert County
Prince Frederick Shop
MD 231 at MD 2/4
Prince Frederick, MD 20678
410-535-1748

Caroline County
Denton Shop
508 Caroline Street
Denton, MD 21629
410-479-0770

Carroll County
Westminster Shop
150 Wyndtryst Drive
Westminster, MD 21157 
410-876-2061

Charles County
LaPlata Shop
Washington Ave
LaPlata, MD 20646
301-934-8031

Dorchester County
Cambridge Shop
750 Handley Road
Cambridge, MD 21701
410-543-6923

Frederick County
Frederick Shop
5111 Buckeystown Pike
Frederick, Md. 21701
301-624-8251

Thurmont Shop
Moser Road
Thurmont, Md. 21788 
301-271-7787

Harford County
Churchville Shop
3050 Churchville Road
Churchville, MD 21028
410-838-7788

Howard County
Dayton Shop
4401 MD 32
Dayton, MD 21036
410-531-5533

Kent County
Chestertown Shop
615 Morgnec Road
Chestertown, MD 21620
410-778-0818

Montgomery County
Fairland Shop
12020 Plumorchard Drive
Silver Spring, MD 20904
301-572-5166

Gaithersburg Shop
502 Quince Orchard Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20760
301-948-2477

Prince George’s County
Laurel Shop
Talbot Avenue &Second Avenue
Laurel, MD 20810
301-776-7619

Marlboro Shop
6500 S.E. Crain Highway
Upper Marlboro, Md. 20870
301-952-0555

Somerset County
Princess Anne Shop
10980 Market Lane
Princess Anne, MD 21853
410-651-1333

St. Mary’s County
Leonardtown Shop
27345 Point Lookout Road
Leonardtown, MD 20650
1-301-475-8035

Washington County    
 Hagerstown Shop
 I-70 & MD 65
18320 Col. Henry Douglas Drive
 Hagerstown, MD 21740
301-791-4790

Wicomico County
Salisbury Shop
660 West Road
Salisbury, MD 21802
410-677-4050

Worcester County
Snow Hill Shop
5630 Market Street
Snow Hill, MD 21863

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:08 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

October 27, 2009

Toll lane proposal faces opposition in Virginia

There was a time when it looked like smooth sailing for a proposal to widen Interstates 395 and 95 in Northern Virginia by building express toll lanes. But the project has recently run into increasing opposition. The Washington Examiner reports that the Alexandria City Council agreed to a resolution denouncing the project.

Is what we're seeing here just NIMBY opposition or is it part of a general backlash against express toll lane projects? We might be finding that answer in Maryland in the not-too-distant future.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Highway patchwork explained

A reader named Andrew van de Castle spotted some construction work on the Baltimore beltway and raised some good questions. I'll let him explain:

Can you find out why 695 was heavily patch-repaired back in August and is now undergoing a complete resurfacing? The area in question is between the Route 70 interchange and Frederick Avenue, both the inner and outer loop. Seems like a big waste of money to make all of those extensive repairs, this was across all lanes and on both sides of the same area, to only scrape them up a month or so later? The repair patches seemed to be a fix for a poorly done job the last time resurfacing was done in the same section. They weren't so much for fixing holes as they were for 'smoothing' out bumps that popped up. Also the patches were so poorly made that they sunk in and made dips out of what used to be bumps. "Good enough for government work." seems to be called to mind...

   Why don't those responsible for overseeing the condition of 695 do what other jurisdictions do with bumps? Use a milling machine to grind the bump down level with the surrounding surface. It must be faster and less expensive than bringing out a full crew with extensive lane closures and diversions to do a poor patching job. Maybe milling operations could put off a full scale resurfacing for another season or two.
   Prime places for milling the road surface smooth are where asphalt ramps meet concrete bridges. My case in point is the ramp from 95 North to 195 West. The ramp splits and the left side, towards Catonsville, has a big asphalt bulge at the edge of the bridge. My vehicle takes a big banging rumble, no matter what the speed adjustment, because I know its there, I slow down as best I can, but often I get horns blown at my pace down this ramp. Drivers behind me either don't know or don't care that they are about to be 'jarred' by this veritable hidden speed bump. Grind it down!
   I do not own a milling machine but I sometimes wish that I did.

I referred the questions to Dave Buck of the State Highway Administration, who provided ome answers.

On any SHA paving project, sections of pavement deemed to be in particularly poor condition (larger number of potholes, rutting etc...) are identified to be patched. For motorists that may have traveled along I-695 before the milling and resurfacing began this summer, sections to be patched were outlined in white paint.

Patching can be time consuming as rectangular sections of road are cut out and repaired with asphalt or concrete, depending on the road being resurfaced. This is done at night on I-695.

Patching a road first is done for two primary reasons - to 1) provide a smooth ride when the project is complete and to 2) minimize the amount of time milled pavement is "exposed." For example, if we were to mill off the top two inches of asphalt first without patching, there is at least a few weeks where those deteriorated sections are milled (but not yet patched) and the pavement is "exposed" to traffic. If any areas in particularly poor shape had not been patched first, after we resurface the road, it would be very uneven and would literally crumble underneath. That is not acceptable.

 The resurfacing of any SHA road is done in a specific order to provide the smoothest ride possible ensuring we get the optimum amount of pavement life until we need to resurface again in the future. SHA adheres to the highest construction standards and we strive to provide a quality ride with minimum disruption to motorists.

I would like to assure you and your readers SHA did not have to re-do anything on I-695. We do appreciate the comments and I will be back in touch with more info about the bump on the ramp from I-95 North to I-195 West.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:24 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

I-83 northbound closed near 41st St.

The northbound Jones Falls Expressway (Interstate 83) has been closed just south of 41st St. as a result of a three-vehicle crash that occurred about 9:30 a.m. No fatalities reported. Tow trucks are on the scene.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:07 AM |
Categories: On the roads
        

October 26, 2009

A Greater Greater blog

Some of the best regional transportation coverage around can be found on the Greater Greater Washington blog. When you finish reading every word on this site, by all means take a look. From red light-running to highway vs. transit to trolleys in D.C., GGW has it covered.

Taking a wide view of Greater Washington, the blog has  also been known to cover Baltimore happenings -- with links to The Baltimore Sun. What goes around comes around.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:49 PM |
        

SHA answers questions (sort of) on I-270

Maryland Politics Watch reports that the State Highway Administration has provided the Montgomery County Council with a series of answers to the council's questions about a $4.6 billion proposal to widen Interstate 270 by two lanes in each direction between Shady Grove and Frederick.

The SHA letter is an elegant example of bureaucratic tiptoeing through a political minefield, and many of the answers are really non-answers. The message, if you read between the lines, is "we really don't want to talk about this yet." But -- surprise, surprise -- this highway agency doesn't see transit -- apart from one line called the Corridor Cities Transitway -- as a solution in the corridor.

The SHA answers carefully sidestep the question of using tolls at existing facilities to finance the I-270 expansion -- even though the council asks that very question. Give these highway folks credit -- they know political poison when the smell it.

The answer about GARVEE bonds points out a strategy that opponents of the project can use to keep it from getting off the ground -- persuade the General Assembly to just say no to any attempt  to raise the debt limit for a single project. Committing a big chunk of future federal revenue to a single project  benefiting a single corridor is contrary to the interest of every other part of the state.

MPW's Adam Pagnucco and I don't see eye to eye about all aspects of the project, but I certainly agree with his assessment that any attempt  to raise the debt limit "guarantees some interesting politicking down the road."

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:05 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Police to screen baggage at MARC stations

The Maryland Transit Administration Police will launch a program of random security checks at MARC commuter train stations Friday, using bomb-sniffing dogs to screen passengers' luggage and packages to detect explosives.

The MTA warned riders that delays could occur and urged passengers to allow extra time to board trains on the Penn, Camden and Brunswick lines.

 Lt. Col. John E. Gavrilis, chief of the MTA police, said the tighter security is not a response to a specific threat but part of a general effort to "target-harden" Maryland transit facilities. He said the effort will begin at MARC stations but would eventually extend to the Baltimore Metro and light rail stations.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:15 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: MARC train
        

Beltsville ICC toll hearing is Wednesday

An earlier version of the item below went out wiith an error on the date. My apologies. The hearing in Beltsville of ICC tolls is Wednesday and the one in Gaitherburg is Thursday.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:00 PM |
        

State to hold hearings on ICC tolls this week

 

Sun photo                    

The Maryland Transportation Authority will hold the first of two public hearings on its tolling plan for the Intercounty Connector Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. in Beltsville.

The hearing at High Point High School, 3601 Powder Mill Road (Route 212), is the closer to Baltimore of the two hearings the authority will conduct on the toll plan for the highway, now under construction (above) in Prince George''s and Montgomery counties. The other will be held during the same hours Thursday night at Shady Grove Middle School, 8100 Midcounty Highway in Gaithersburg.

Under the plan, motorists driving passenger vehicles could be charged as much as 35 cents a mile during peak driving teams and up to 30 cents a mile for off-peak trips.  That means a trip the full length of the ICC could cost about $6 each way when the road fully opens in 2011-2012.

Baltimore-area residents who have a stake in the ICC's future should by all means travel to Beltsville and express their opinions. They might  also want to let the authority know what they think of the decision to skip holding any hearings in the Baltimore region on a project of statewiide significance.

One caution, however: One way or another, the bonds the state floated to build the ICC have to be paid off. If the authority, under political pressure, backed off its tolling scheme, the state would almost certainly have to find the money elsewhere.

That most likely would mean higher tolls elsewhere or deferring much-needed projects in other parts of  the state to placate an ICC customer base made up largely of residents of Montgomery County.

So by all means go and vent.  Most likely authority officials will nod politely and do exactly what they proposed. But in case they're actually listening, be careful what you wish for.

If you want to express your views but don't  want to travel to the  Washington suburbs, you can do so by clicking here.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:48 AM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Thank you, Mrs. Rosenblatt

 Karen Rosenblatt of Ellicott City spotted something that worried her and sent this note:


For the past several months, work has been ongoing on the bridge on southbound Rt. 29 over I-70 in Ellicott City.  It was taken down to the supports and completely redone.  While the work was being done, I noticed that water was “puddling” on the shoulder lane.  The “puddle” is about 30’ long by 8-10’ wide.  I thought maybe a drain was clogged and this would be fixed when work was complete.  It appears that the work is complete and the puddle is still there.  It rained last weekend and this area has still not dried.  I think this will be a huge hazard when it’s rainy and temperatures dip below freezing.  Is there any way the State Highways Department could have this fixed before the job is marked complete? 

 I sent Mrs. Rosenblatt's inquiry to Dave Buck, spokesman for the State Highway Administration, who sent this prompt reply:

I spoke with our Construction and Bridge engineers.  SHA is aware of the issue Ms. Rosenblatt describes in her email.  Our engineers have been on site over the past few weeks and are in the process of determining the needed modification.  We expect to have some answers very quickly, which I will pass along. 
 
SHA shares in the reader's concern about making the needed repairs prior to any freezing conditions and thanks Ms. Rosenblatt for her astute observations.

My experience suggests that Maryland has a very good highway administration. But with the help of vigilant citizens, they can do  just a little bit better.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:20 AM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Gas prices continue climb

It was just a few weeks ago when Maryland drivers could entertain thoughts that falling gasoline prices might continue to plunge toward the $2 mark. No more. The statewide average price of a gallon of regular now stands at $2.62, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, after  rising by 13 cents from the past week's average.

Pasadena and the Arundel Mills area are potential places of refuge, as sprices there are running almost 20 cents behind the statewide average, according to MarylandGasPrices. com. Meanwhile, one Shell station in North Potomac has cracked the $3 barrier at $3.04, the web  site reports.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:44 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Reader suggests trolley add-ons

Chikwe Njoku of Baltimore has some suggestions for the people working to get the Charles Street Trolley up and running. I thought they wqere worth passing along.

One suggestion that I would like to offer is that they consider adding a spur from that line at Penn Station up a short segment of Falls Road and connect with the Baltimore Street Car Museum. This spur would allow for them to partner with the Museum and run special excusion trains on selected dates that would certainly enhance efforts to bring more tourists downtown. It may provide the perfect lure to make people venture up Charles Street from the Inner Harbor. Who wouldn't want to catch a vintage trolley at the Inner Harbor or Penn Station and make the loop around the city?

The other part of that suggestion is to take the southern portion of the Charles Street line, which turns off of Conway Street at Light street down Light Street to Hanover Street down onto the line that runs behind The Sun"s facilities at Port Covington on to the cruise terminal. Port Covington is supposed to be redeveloped and could include the Sun building that's down there. If they run the vintage trolleys on cruise weekends it may lure not only tourists but people may stay in the city before and after their cruise and explore the city via this trolley connection.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:41 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Streetcars & trolleys
        

October 25, 2009

Councilwoman suggests bike lane innovation

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke floated an interesting notion Sunday as she took part  in a neighborhood event in Roland Park.

Noting that the city is planning to repave Roland Avenue, she suggested that transportation officials install a two-way bicycle lane immediately adjacent to the curb, with a parking lane just to the left.

The idea, she said, is that the lane of parked cars would serve as a buffer between bike riders and the cars in the travel lanes. Clarke said the idea has already been tested in New York and Montreal. The bicyclists who were gathered nearby seemed to think that was a good idea.

So what do you say, two-wheelers and parallel parkers? Is the councilwoman on to something or has she just  slipped a gear?

Coincidentally, the Greater  Greater Washington blog is reporting that District officials are considering a similar idea for 15th St. N.W. GGW has a lot of good graphics that help explain the concept.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:00 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Bicycles
        

October 23, 2009

After Virginia loss, Amtrak wins one

Amtrak got its share of bad publicity lately when it lost the contract to operate Virginia Railway Express trains to a French company. Now, with a big win under its belt, Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm thinks it's only proper that the media recognize its successes.

Happy to, Steve.

Amtrak, which lost its contract with Southern California's Metrolink system in 2005, has regained that business and will take over operations of its commuter trains next July. The nation's largest passenger rail company reached an agreement on a four-year contract, with a possible two three-year extensions, with the Southern California Regional Rail Authority.

In 2005, the SCRRA decided to dump Amtrak in favor of Veolia Transportation. That didn't work out so great for the Metrolink system. In 2008, a Veolia engineer who was later found to have been texting while on the job ran a signal and collided with a Union Pacific freight train. The crash killed 25 people, including the engineer. Metrolink has been dealing with the legal and public relations fallout ever since.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:33 PM |
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads
        

Dorsey clock still off the MARC

It's disconcerting to arrive at a MARC station and to have the clock on the station tell you that you've missed your train.

That was my experience when I used the MARC station at Dorsey about six months ago, and Thursday was  a repeat. On both occasions, the big clock on the Camden Line station was running about 15 minutes fast.

I know the tansportation budget is  tight, but couldn't the Maryland Transit Administration scrape up a few bucks to get its timepiece fixed? Railroads, after all, were the inspiration for accurate and  standardized timekeeping.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: MARC train
        

October 21, 2009

'Sunday Streets' concept to get road test

Roland Park will be the site Sunday of the first  field test of a concept known as "Sunday Streets," in which a main drag is given over  to pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders and other non-motorized traffic for a few hours on the weekend.

The Roland Park Civic League is working with other sponsors, including One Less Car and the Inn at the Colonnade, to  test a concept that has  its origins in Colombia.

There it is known as "ciclovia," Spanish for "bike path." Each Sunday miles of roads in the capital, Bogota, are turned into a sprawling street fair. Vehicular traffic isn't banned, but some streets are closed to all but local traffic and cars and trucks are required to drive slowly and wiith their blinkers on.  The event has become a popular civic celebration.

"It basically turns the streets into a park," said M. Gregory Cantori, president of One Less Car.  

Baltimore's event will be a much-modified, much smaller version of Bogota's.

Sunday's test will close the southbound lanes of Roland Avenue from Northern Parkway to Cold Spring Lane between 8 a.m and 1 p.m. The avenue will remain open to northbound traffic but southbound vehicles will be detoured.

If the test is a success, proponents of the concept hope to stage a larger Sunday Streets event next March connecting Roland Park, Lake Montebello and Druid Hill Park.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:02 PM |
        

MARC: Locomotives not guilty in morning madness

 

AEM-7

 

Sun photo/Kenneth Lam                     

There's good news and bad news about the MARC system this morning.

First the bad: It was a miserable morning's performance on the Penn Line, with delays leading to canceled trains and overcrowding on the ones that did run.

The good news: The two AEM-7 electric locomotiives that recently returned to the tracks after some three years in an Amtrak repair yard were not the culprits.

Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, explained that the morning's woes (detailed here) were caused by a malfunction in the cab car of the train for which the AEM-7s (one of which is shown above) were providing the power. He said the system that failed was the one that picks up electric signals from the track. Without that system, the train can't run. When one train can't run, there's a cascading effect allong the entire line as equipment fails to find its way into the proper position, Cahalan said. Three trains ended  up being canceled.

 

 

A brief explainer of how MARC operates might help:

Normally, a locomotive pulls a train in one direction and pushes it back. When the locomotive is pushing from the back of the train, the controls are in the cab car at the front.

This morning the two AEM-7s were positioned at the back of the Train 401. Normally there would be only one engine, but MARC is running the two in tandem while they  undergo testing so that if one fails, the other  can supply the power. Cahalan said the locomotives performed  well, but the cab car problem immobilized the train.

Cahalan said the cab car failure is not unprecedented but hasn't been a recurring problem.

That's a relief for MARC -- and  should  be for its beleaguered  Penn Line  riders. If the problem had been one that forced MARC to send one or both of the AEM-7s back into the shop, that would have been close to catastrophic for a system that desperately needs those engines.

And for the reader who wrote last night to report a blinking of the lights on the train being  powered by the AEM-7s, Cahalan has an answer: There was a brief loss of contact with the catenary (the overhead wire that brings electric power to the train). He said it was a "temporary issue" that has been resolved.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:16 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: MARC train
        

Blog calls Post on 'windshield perspective'

When a reporter covering transportation issues gets around mostly by car, it's easy to slip into what David Alpert of the Greater Greater Washington blog calls a "windshield perspective" -- a tendency to view the world as if everyone was a driver.

Alpert, who does a great job covering metropolitan Washington (and sometimes Baltimore too), tore into two Washington Post reporters for their coverage of parking trends in that area. In this case, I think he has them dead to rights. I, too, had spotted the $100-a-day hypothetical they posed for a day's parking in Friendship Heights  and thought that was fanciful at best.

Reminder to all transpo writers, including myself: Not everyone drives.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:15 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Bike rights task force up for hearing

The Baltimore City Council will hold a hearing on a bill to create an "Equal Rights for Bikes" task force Friday at 12:30 p.m. A respectable turnout of two-wheel advocates is anticipated.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:52 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bicycles
        

Major disruptions on MARC line

It looks like one of those meltdown days on MARC this morning. Even the Maryland Transit Administration web site,  famous for describing just about any problems as "minor," is reporting "major disruptions." The trains, 400, 406 and 407, were canceled on the Penn Line. The Camden Lines is experiencing delays too.

This comes just as things were supposed to get better with the return of two electric  loco motives from an Amtrak repair yard.

Click below to read the MTA's running notices on the problems. It's best read from bottom to top.

 

Camden Line: Northbound trains are experiencing 15-20 minute delays though the Muirkirk/Laurel area due to signal problems.
Penn Line Update #6: Due to its severe delay, train 407 is cancelled and will depart from Baltimore as on time train 417 (8:10am),  Southbound trains 513 (7:15 am) and  415 (7:40am) will operate on time making the normal stops. Northbound Express train 406 ( 7:21am) is cancelled the next northbound train will be train 408 (7:40am)
Penn Line Update #5: Due to the severe overcrowding of train 509 it will discharge passengers only from BWI station and points south. The next southbound train will train 411 expected to depart Baltimore on time (7:00 am) , again with expectations of crowded conditions. Updates to follow. 
  Penn Line Update #4: Train 407 will be delayed for an uncertain amount of time due to mechanical problem. The next southbound train will be train 509 maiking its normal stops. Expect overcrowded conditions. Updates to follow .
Penn Line Update #3: Train 400 enroute to Baltimore is cancelled today, train 402 (6:45 dep Wash) will make all train 400's stops to Baltimore.
Penn Line: Update #2: Train 401 departed Baltimore 30 minutes late. Due to this severe delay train 400 (5:54am dep Wash) will be cancelled, train 402 (6:45am dep Wash) will make all stops north to Baltimore.
Penn Line Update #1: Train 401 is expected to depart Baltimore approximately 30 minutes late. Updates to follow.
Penn Line: Train 401 is experiencing mechanical problems in Baltimore, expected delay approximately 15 minutes. Updates to follow.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:28 AM | | Comments (6)
        

October 20, 2009

Will ICC give tolls a bad name?

Cavan Wilks has written a perceptive piece for the Greater Greatter Washington blog about the high tolls motorists can look forward to when the Intercounty Connector opens.

Essentially, Wilks delivers the message that the announced ICC tolls are expensive because the road itself has been expensive to build. He theorizes -- and I suspect he's correct -- that the ICC experience will sour the public on the cost of new highways.

Tolls were accepted by the public in the pre-interstate era because people really wanted roads to match the explosive growth in the availability of cars. But once the interstate system was born in 1956 and the concept of the freeway caught on, tolled highways seemed anachronistic. Before the ICC, no tollroads have been built in Maryland since the Kennedy Highway in the early 1960s.

In Maryland, all of our current tollls are on old infrastructure -- built at a  time  when construction costs were much less. No new toll facilities have come on line since the Fort McHenry Tunnel in 1985. Generally, Maryland's existing tolls aren't that onerous. Sure, you'll pay $5 to go north on the Kennedy Highway, but it's free coming back. The Bay Bridge toll of $2.50, collected from eastbound drivers only, is still the best bargain in Maryland.

 

With the prevailing perception that taxes are too high and tolls aren't so bad, there wasn't much resistance to the decision to make the ICC a tollroad.

But with the state's plan callling for peak drive time tolls of as much as $6 -- each way -- to drive from Interstate 95 to Interstate 270 , the perception of tolling in Maryland could change, Wilks believes. Resistance to  projects such as the proposed $4.6 billion widening of Interstate 270 from Shady Grove to Frederick could change.

What should be a concern for Baltimore is any effort by Montgomery County politicians to lower ICC tolls. That's because there is no free lunch here. To  lower tolls on the ICC, money would have to be taken from somewhere else in the form of deferred transportation projects, higher taxes or higher tolls on non-ICC facilities -- all of which are located to the east of Montgomery County. As it is, toll-backed bonds account for only half of the cost of building the $2.6 billion ICC. It is difficult to envision any scenario under which Baltimore would not be stuck with a disproportionate share of the bill for easing ICC toll payers' pain.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:16 AM |
Categories: Maryland toll facilities
        

ICC work to force U.S. 29 closings

Early morning travelers on U.S. 29 might want to look for an alternate route for the next several months. The State Highway Administration says that early Monday it will begin a series of temporary overnight closings on that highway to allow  crews to work on a bridge that will carry the Intercounty Connector over 29.

The periodic closings, lasting no more than 15 minutes at a time, are expected to continue through the spring. The closings will take place Monday through Friday mornings between mindnight and 5 a.m. in the stretch of 29 between Fairland and Briggs Chaney roads.

The highway agency suggested that motorists use Interstate 95 or Old Columbia Pike as alternate routes.

 

In addition to the full road closings, the administration also said it will periodically close lanes to let work on the ICC bridge proceed. It said single-lane closings could take place between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and double lane closings may be in effect between 7 p.m. and midnight. Motorists will be notified in advance of such  closings with  electronic sign messages.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:44 AM |
        

October 19, 2009

MARC, unlike Virginia line, sticking with Amtrak

The news in the Washington Post over the weekend that Virginia Railway Express has decided to dump Amtrak and award a contract to a French firm to operate its trains made me wonder whether a similar move is in MARC's future.

The answer is no. Not on the Penn Line, at least.

According to Jack Cahalan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, MARC is in the second year of a five-year contract with Amtrak to operate its commuter trains on the Penn Line (Perryville-Washington) and the state has no plans to solicit bids from another vendor.

It's a different story on the Camden (Baltimore-Washington) and Brunswick (Martinsburg, W.Va.-Washington) lines. On those lines, freight  railroad CSX wants out of the business of hauling passengers.  Cahalan said the state has issued a bid solicitation for another provider to operate trains on those CSX-owned lines. Bid are expected in by the end of the year, he said.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:45 PM |
Categories: MARC train
        

Gas price in Baltimore jumps 11 cents in a week

The good times have ceased rolling on the gasoline price front. According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the average price of regular  in the Baltimore area rose 11 cents -- from $2.35 to $2.46 -- in the past week. Crude oil prices have been rising -- so more increases could be on the way.

The good news is that Baltimore's  gas price lags the national average of $2.56 by a dime. And it looks a lot better than the price in California, where folks are paying more than $3 a gallon.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:50 AM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Reconciling bicycles and traffic laws

Christopher Beam has an interesting article in Slate Magazine on bicycling and traffic laws. He takes a while getting to the point, but comes down in a place where I can agree with him.

His proposal to adopt the "Idaho stop" -- under which bicyclists can treat a stop sign as a yield sign -- makes sense to me. The argument that the role of momentum is different for a bicycle and a motor vehicle rings true. (I wouldn't extend that logic to stoplights because they're generally deployed at higher-speed, higher-volume intersections.)

So does his proposal that police crack down on more dangerous two-wheel misbehavior such as riding the wrong way on one-way streets. This particular assault on traffic laws is an epidemic in Baltimore.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:51 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bicycles
        

Power restored on MARC Penn Line

The latest from MARC:

  • Penn Line Update: Due to earlier electrical problems train 417 southbound is operating 15-20 minutes late, northbound train 410 is operating 30-35 minutes late.
  • Penn Line:  Electrical power is restored, trains are moving. Expect delays in both directions 10 to 30 minutes late. Metro is still honoring tickets. Updates will follow.
  • Penn Line: All trains (MARC and Amtrak) with electric
    locomotives are stopped due to electrical power failure from Washignton
    to New York. Diesel locomotives can operate but we will expect possible
    delays of undetermined time. METRO will honor MARC tickets. Updates
    will follow.

  • Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:00 AM | | Comments (1)
    Categories: MARC train
            

    October 16, 2009

    Second MARC electric locomotive back on tracks

    Amtrak has finished overhauling and has returned to MARC the second of four AEM-7 electric locomotives that had been out of service for more than two years, bolstering the commuter rail system's ability to haul long trains and reduce crowding.

    Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman Jack Cahalan said the newly returned locomotive performed well on the first of  a series of tests in which it hauled a train equipped with a backup locomotive -- the first of the AEM-7s returned by Amtrak.

    Cahalan said that locomotive has perfomed acceptably since being returned to MARC. He said the Maryland Transit Administration is hopeful that Amtrak has found a lasting solution to the electrical problems that sidelined the AEM-7.

    With the return of the second AEM-7, MARC's fleet of electric locomotives -- which can haul longer trains than the system's diesel engines -- is up to eight. Two AEM-7s remain in Amtrak's Wilmington repair yard. MARC also operates six HHP-8 electric locomotives, which have remained in service despite a record of sporadic breakdowns.

    In recent months a thin roster of locomotives has forced MARC on many days to run trains with fewer cars than usual -- exacerbating its crowding problems on the Penn Line. The electric locomotives are used only on the Penn Line. When too few are available, MARC has to substitute its less powerful diesel engines.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:04 PM |
    Categories: MARC train
            

    October 15, 2009

    Wilson Bridge speed limit returns to 55 mph

    The speed limit on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and its approaches, which had been reduced to 50 mph while the new span was being built, has been returned to the 55-mph level that prevails on most of  the Capital Beltway.

    The speed limit had been lowered on an 8-mile section of the Beltway in 2005 as the pace of construction picked up on the bridge and on projected interchanges on both sides of the Potomac River. Officials of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project said the majority of work has been completed, making it safe to resume the previous speed.

    Work is expected  to continue on the Telegraph Road interchange in Virginia until 2012, but official decided that part of the project would not have as severe an impact on Beltway traffic as previous phases.

    Still in effect is an experimental Variable Speed Limit program on the Virginia side of the river in which the maximums change with travel conditions using sensors and computerized formulas.

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:42 PM |
    Categories: On the roads
            

    Prince George's muffs speed camera decision

    A reader named John Dusch sent along an article from the Gazette in Prince George's County on speed cameras, thinking I'd be interested. I was.

    It seems the Prince George's County Council has approved plans for speed cameras and has designated the county Revenue Authority to determine the 50 school sites where they will be deployed.

    The Revenue Authority? What are these people thinking?

    Regular readers of this blog are well aware that I have no objections to speed cameras and wouldn't mind if they were  used on every road in the state. But to maintain the integrity and the  core  purpose of the program -- safety -- decisions on where to post such cameras should be kept strictly separate from revenue considerations.

    Camera location is a matter for the police department, the transportation department,  even the health department, but not the revenue arm of local government. Prince George's County's decision reflects badly not just on its own program but others around the state.

    The Council should rethink this extremely harmful decision.

     

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:46 AM | | Comments (7)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    October 14, 2009

    State gets grant for scenic byways program

    With anniversary observances  of two wars expected to bring an influx of tourists, Maryland has received a $5.6 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration to improve and market its scenic roads.

    The infusion of money for the Maryland's Byways program will help the state prepare for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War starting in 2011 and the 200th anniversay of the War of 1812. Important engagements of both wars were fought on Maryland soil, including the defense of Baltimore in 1814 and the Antietam campaign of 1862.

    In addition, Maryland will soon be observing a celebration of the life of Abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman, an Eastern Shore native.

    The grant application was a joint effort of the Maryland Office of Tourism and the State Highway Administration. It will go to help fund the Catoctin Mountain Scenic Byway in Frederick County, the Star-Spangled Banner Byway in Baltimore and Baltimore, Prince George's and Calvert counties, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway in Dorchester and Caroline counties.

    According to the state  Department of Economic Development, the grant to Maryland was the largest awarded by the federal agency in the current competitive process.

     

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:19 PM | | Comments (1)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    E-ZMyth about E-ZPass

    Reports about an academic study about the effects of traffic congestion on infant health show how easy it is to put misinformation on a fast track in blog world. Contrary to the Internet buzz, there is no report showing that using E-ZPass will make your baby healthier.

    There is a  Columbia University report  by Janet Currie and Reed Walker that first came to my attention with an email with the intriguing subject line: "Parents with EZ-Pass have healthier babies?" It directed me to the usually reliable InsideCharmCity blog, which briefly reported  that the study  "finds that parents who use EZPass have healthier babies"  and credited the excellent Greater Greater Washington blog.

    GGW indeed delivered that message and went on to say that "the researchers used parents with and without E-ZPass as a way to get at the effect of exposing babies to less congestion" and credited the How We Drive blog run by David Vanderbilt, author of the fascinating book "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)."

    Vanderbilt copies the study's abstract and otherwise accurately describes the study, adding the caveat  that he hadn't actually read it.  If he had, he probably wouldn't have used the misleading headline: "Your Baby and E-ZPass."

    Ooops. The study doesn't really deal with your baby and E-ZPass, unless you're a mother who lives within 3 kilometers of a toll plaza in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. It has nothing at all to do with E-ZPass subscribers and their babies. Zip. Zero. Nada. So don't bother to get an E-ZPass to increase your infant's birth weight. Especially if you're only a sporadic user of toll facilities. After all, you have to pay a monthly fee ($1.50) and buy a transponder ($21) for E-ZPass in Maryland now.

    What  the study does indicate is that by reducing congestion and auto emissions in the vicinity of toll plaza, E-ZPass appears to have reduced the incidence of low birth weight among babies born to mothers who lived within 3 kilometers (a little over 1 mile) of one of those New Jersey or Pennsylvania toll plazas. That's a highly positive development but hardly as  strong an inducement to acquire a pass as improving the health of one's own progeny.

    I would also point out that any positive effects on birth weight  of E-ZPass in Maryland eight would likely be mitigated by the fact that the state has only seven toll plazas and that those it does have tend to be far removed from dense residential areas.

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:35 AM | | Comments (5)
    Categories: Maryland toll facilities
            

    Hatem Bridge traffic to be detoured

    Westbound traffic on U.S. 40 will be diverted off the Susquehanna River bridge several nights next week for deck repairs, the Maryland Transportation Authority announced.

    Depending on weather conditions, the westbound lane of the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge will close Monday through Thursday at 8 p.m., reopening at 5 a.m. the following mornings. Crews will be installing and painting the new deck of the nearly 70-year-old structure.

    Eastbound  traffic will not be affected.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:54 AM |
    Categories: Off the roads
            

    October 13, 2009

    Light rail woes leave riders in the dark

    The Maryland Transit Administration light rail system developed what the MTA likes to call "minor problems" this afternoon when one of its trains broke down -- resulting in a delay of about a half-hour for at leatrt one train.

    I know that because I was on that train -- a southbound run to BWI -- as it ground to a halt just north of North Avenue. For about 15 minutes we sat there, with no clue what was going on, before the train began moving again into the station.

    Where it sat and sat and sat for what seemed like another 15 minutes. Again, no announcement from the MTA -- which might have been useful if you were headed to the Mount Roysl stop to catch a  train at Penn Station. 

    Unlike the typical rider, I have the phone number of the MTA public affairs office embedded in my brain. So I called MTA chief spokeswoman Jawauna Greene to find out what was going on. Nobody had informed her. So I left my cell phone number.

    A short while later, I got a call back from Greene saying a train had stopped on the track ahead because of mechanical problems, I was told she would try to get the light rail operators to make an announcement  to passengers.

    We sat a little longer, with no announcement, and then another southbound train came by on a parallel track marked as headed for Cromwell station, switched over. (Most light rail riders can take either BWI or Cromwell trains to their destinations.) Almost all of the passengers, including this blogger, switched trains.

    Now it was the new train's turn to sit. It wasn't too long a wait this time, and there was an announcement -- almost inaudible and delivered in far tonn  fast and with too heavy an accent for all but the keenest ears to hear. A teenage girl told me the announcement was that the train would go to BWI rather than Cromwell ( really good information to have delivered audibly and clearly if you're heading for Cromwell or Ferndale). No mention of what caused the problem.

    A few minutes later and the train lurched forward, braked and got on its way again. I  disembarked at Centre Street and the trained continued its trip downtown.

    I'm  not complaining about the delay. Stuff happens. And most of my light rail experiences, including yesterday's northbound trip to Timonium, have been positive.

    But the MTA needs to do a better job of letting its customers know what the problem is when the bad stuff happens. Greene said the operators generally know what's happening and have the ability to keep passengers informed and are  encouraged to do so.

    "Nobody wants to be sitting on a train not knowing what's happening," she said.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:56 PM | | Comments (1)
    Categories: Light rail
            

    More drums boom for wider I-270

    Last night it was my pleasure to tape a show with Charles Duffy of Montgomery Municipal Cable's "Political Pulse" down in Kensington. The GPS lady said to take the Capital Beltway. Experience said otherwise, and I took a combination of non-interstate routes through Burtonsville and Wheaton. It worked out fine -- even though I was traveling at rush hour.

    One of the main topics was the proposal to spend $4.6 billion on a sprawl-enabling, polluting, futile and wasteful widening of Interstate 270. Duffy was kind enough to give the the opportunity to explain why this is not such a grand idea from a  Baltimore point of view.

    But while I was off pontificating, other forces were at work advancing the bank-breaking project, Maryland Politics  Watch reports. It seems that business and labor have formed an unholy alliance in support of what would be the most expensive transportation project in Maryland history.

    There is no sign that the O'Malley administration is showing much interest  in the road-widening project, though it is supportive of a transit lline in the I-270 corridor. But there are enough drums beating for the project in Montgomery to warrant vigilance on the part of political leaders from Baltimore and elsewhere in the state.

     

     

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:25 AM | | Comments (3)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    October 9, 2009

    State to begin Route 32 safety project Sunday

    Responding to Howard County residents after a pair of well-publicized fatal crashes, the State Highway Administration said it will launch an $800,000 project Sunday to add new left-turn lanes at three intersections along Route 32 north of Interstate 70.

    The highway agency said it will build the new turn lanes on Maryland 32 at the intersections with Day Road, Amberwoods Way and the southern end of River Road – all of which lie between Old Frederick Road (Route 99) and the Carroll County line.

    The state also plans to add a new 0.6-mile center lane with left-turn arrows serving Emory Farm Lane, Coventry Meadows Drive, Indian Hill Drive and Heritage Farms Court.

    The selection of a date to start work follows the state’s announcement action of its plans for Route 32 improvements last month. Local residents had demanded action after two recent fatal crashes involving attempts to make left turns off the busy state highway, which narrows to two lanes north of Clarksburg despite traffic volumes estimated at 23,000 a day in the section slated for the work.

    On Sept. 10, Dr. Brian Emery, a Sykesville physician, was killed when he was rear-ended as he tried to turn from northbound Route 32 onto Amberwoods. His car was forced into the southbound lanes and was hit by a pickup truck.

    Two months earlier, about 200 yards from that site at River Road, Kyong Hae Kim of Sykesville and her 13-year-old son, Vincent Woodward, died when the Mazda van she was driving was struck by a tow truck as she attempted a left turn.

    The highway agency said it hopes to finish the project by December if weather permits. It said workers will close a single lane of Route 32 between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays. Other work will be done during the day between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, when flaggers will direct traffic.

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:43 PM |
            

    Traffic crashes dip to record low rate

    How strange that a death toll of 16,626 people comes as good news. That's because that total represents a record low for half a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

     The federal agency said that estimated total for the January-June period represents a 7 percent drop from the 17,871 killed on U.S. roads during the first half of 2008.

    NHTSA is also projecting a .record low fatality rate of 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared 1.23 deaths during the same period last year.

    It's progress, but those numbers are still horrific -- more than the equivalent of five 9/11s between Jan. 1 and June 30. And it's cold comfort to those who have lost family members, friends and colleagues.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:40 AM | | Comments (1)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    SUV burns on I-95

    There was a disturbing sight on the way in to Baltimore on Interstate 95 this morning. Just sourth of the city, where I-95 meets the Beltway, there was an SUV on the southbound shoulder, fully engulfed in flames. No emergency crews were on the scene but a fire truck was on its way.

     I wonder how that all played  out. Email if you know.

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:06 AM | | Comments (1)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    October 8, 2009

    MTA, riders sorry to see Daley go

    Maryland Transit Administration employees and many of the agency's customers are distraught at the news that Katharine Daley, the MTA's director of service development, will soon leave the agency to take a new job in Tampa.

    In just two years at the MTA, the energetic Daley set a new standard for community outreach and won the enthusiastic admiration of some of the most persnickety transit advocates. She became known for her patience and skill in working with diverse populations and for making changes to bus routes that riders actually liked.

    (Ed Cohen, the former president of the Transit Riders Action Council, called me with this news. I wasn't in a position to take down quotes, but suffice it to say that Cohen thinks she's the best thing to happen to the MTA in years.)

    Unfortunately for the MTA, news of her abilities spread beyond Baltimore and she was offered the the position of chief of service planning at Hillsborough Area Regional Transit in Tampa. Daley is expected to leave the MTA to take that position by the end of next month.

    MTA Deputy Director Henry Kay praised her performance.

    "Katharine Daley brought a fresh perspective, knowledge of industry best practices and a passion for listening to the needs of MTA riders and employees alike," Kay said.  "Plus, she became a connoisseur of Baltimore night life faster than anyone I've ever met.  She is leaving the MTA system better than she found it and we wish her well."

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:13 PM | | Comments (2)
            

    Transportation chief seems cool toward I-270 notion

    During a wide-ranging interview this morning with Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley, I had the opportunity to ask her whether a $4.6 billion proposal to widen Interstate 270 between Shady Grove and Frederick was in line with the O'Malley administration's priorities.

    Swaim-Staley diidn't really answer the question directly, but the way she replied gave me the impression she has little enthusiasm for the idea -- which is being promoted by the Montgomery County Planning Board and local business interests as the cure for congestion in the corridor.

    I'm not faulting her for dodging. The corridor is now undergoing a traffic study, and high-ranking department officials generally try to avoid comments that might prejudice the process. But she brought a certain vehemence to her insistence that transit comes first in the corridor that I found reassuring.

    "We really are focused on the transit aspects in that corridor," she said -- referring to the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway project that would serve many of the employment centers along the interstate. Any consideration of a wider interstate, she emphasized, is far in the future.

     

     

    Readers of this blog may be well aware that the $4.6 billion plan to add two express  toll lanes in each direction has found little favor here. To Baltimore eyes it appears to be an enormous expenditure that would encourage sprawling development in northern Montgomery, Frederick County and even Pennsylvania while diverting growth that might otherwise go to the center of the state. It is, in fact, a very 1970s solution to a 21st Century problem.

    Swaim-Staley rattled off a series of O'Malley administration priorities -- the Baltimore  Red Line, the Washington-area Purple Line, the Corridor Cities transit line, accommodating military base expansion -- and pointedly left I-270 off the list.

    What she said was nothing that hadn't been said before by others in her department. But it was good to hear it from the boss -- and so forcefully.

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:32 PM |
    Categories: On the roads
            

    October 7, 2009

    Baltimore lists proposed speed camera sites

    The city of Baltimore isn't keeping the 51 proposed locations of its first flight of speed cameras under wraps. You can find a full list of intersections that are expected to be equipped with the cameras at this city web site. The list will become final Nov. 2, the day the city stops issuing warnings and begins sending out actual $40 tickets.

    It looks as if the Dixon administration has done a good job of distributing them to all parts of the city except for purely industrial areas where there are no schools.

    Northern Parkway appears to have grabbed the honors for the street with the most camera locations -- five. Anyone who drives that road can attest the distinction is well-deserved.

    The first 51 locations for speed cameras wiil be at intersections  where the city operates red light cameras. Some red light  camera locations are not within a half-mile of a school, as required by the state law authorizing speed cameras.

    Slow down and you'll never have to worry about the speed cameras, which cut drivers 12 mph worth of slack before issuing a ticket.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:17 PM | | Comments (9)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    Metro going back to 4-car trains on weekends

     Cohen

    Sun photo/Kim Hairston                     

    Ed Cohen, past president of the Transit Riders Action Council and a vigilant watchdog when it comes to the Maryland Transit Administration, called to report severe overcrowding on the Metro subway on Saturdays since the MTA began running trains at 20-minute intervals instead of the previous 15-minute headways.

    Cohen (above) said  that after making the change recently, the MTA continued to run two-car trains -- which became jam-packed as the numbers of rider per train swelled.

    Now the MTA has reversed course. An agency spokesperson said MTA personnel noticed the same thing and decided to go to four-cars trains on weekends to alleviate the crowding. She said the new policy was in place last weekend.

    The spokesperson said the MTA will run six-car trains Saturday because of the Baltimore marathon but will go back to four-car trains Sunday when the Ravens play.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:41 PM | | Comments (4)
    Categories: Baltimore Metro
            

    MARC to reinstate fee for on-board purchases

    The MARC commuter train system will resume its policy of collecting a $3 surchage from passengers who board at a station where they coould have bought a ticket from a vending machine, the Maryland Transit Administration has announced.

    The charge, which had been waived for the  past six months  to allow customers to get used to the newly installed machines at some of its stations, will be reinstated Nov. 2, according to the MTA.

    An employee of the MTA's public affairs office said MARC conductors have been "inundated" wiith riders attempting to buy tickets. She said that making change on the purchases is "burdensome" on conductors."

     

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:18 PM | | Comments (1)
    Categories: MARC train
            

    Engine's return raises hopes for MARC

    MARC train riders shouldn't get their hopes up too much but there just might be some good news coming their way.

    According to Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm, the national passenger railroad just recently returned the first of MARC's four AEM-7 electric locomotives to the Maryland Transit Administration after almost three years of being laid up in a repair shop in Wilmington, Del. He said a second locomotive is expected to be returned to  the MTA late this week or early next week.

    Kulm said Amtrak believes it has found a fix for a vexing electrical problem that has sidelined the locomotives and hope to have the remaining two returned to MARC before the end of the year.

    A shortage of electric locomotives has been the main reason that MARC has been forced to run short, crowded trains on the Penn Line in recent months. When too few electric locomotives are available, MARC has to substitute less powerful diesel engines that can pull fewer cars. The locomotive shortage also leaves the system vulnerable to breakdowns that can force train cancellations.

    The return of two locomotives might not seem like a big deal until you look at it as 20 percent of MARC's fleet of electrics. With the four AEM-7s in the shop, MARC has had to rely on its six HHP-8 locoomotives (known as Hippos) -- a model with a less-than-stellar record of avoiding breakdowns.

    Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman Jack Cahalan confirmed that the MTA has been putting the returned engine through a round of testing and that so far it has passed.

    "The phrase cautiously optimistic is one you will hear repeatedly from us," Cahalan said.

    Stay tuned. We hope to have more details in Thursday's Sun.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:47 AM |
    Categories: MARC train
            

    October 6, 2009

    Ocean City bridge to close for 2 months

     

     

    AP photo                      

    The State Highway Administration will close one of the two bridges leading into Ocean City for two months so work crews can replace a damaged girder that has already prompted the agency to prohibit truck traffic on the span.

    Highway officials said the full closure of the Route 90 bridge will begin next week or early the following week. Traffic will be diverted to the U.S. 50 bridge, which leads to the resort’s downtown.

    The Route 90 bridge was closed to all vehicles weighing more than 6,000 pounds last week after inspectors found that the concrete lining of an 85-foot girder had eroded, exposing the underlying steel to potential corrosion.

    The decision to close the bridge was not unexpected. SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said last week that the repairs could be performed more quickly if all lanes were closed.

    The 38-year-old, 1.4-mile bridge carries traffic over Assawoman Bay to north Ocean City at 60th Street.

    Work crews will remove an 85-foot section of the bridge, replace the steel beams, pour a new deck surface and paint new stripes, the agency said. The highway administration hopes to reopen the bridge by mid-December.

    The agency said it is now drawing up engineering specifications and hopes to soon hire a contractor. It said an exact date for the closing will be announced after the contractor is chosen. Highway 90 will remain open to local traffic, including vehicles heading for Ocean Pines and U.S. 113, as far as St. Martin’s Neck Road. The weight restrictions will remain in effect until the bridge closes.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:27 PM | | Comments (3)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    October 5, 2009

    Who is Thomas J. Hatem of bridge fame?

    Thomas Hatem bridge

    The Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge was in the news last week, along with the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge. It seems both Susquehanna River bridges' foundations have shown signs of advanced deterioration -- requiring an accelerated rehab program over the next several years.

    So who were these fellows whose names now adorn some of Maryland's most importatnt transportation facilities?

    Tydings is easy to track down. He was a highly respected four-term U.S. senator (1927-1951) who lived in the Susquehanna River town of Havre de Grace. He died in 1961, so when the Interstate 95 bridge opened in 1963, it seemed only natural to honor him.

    Hatem was a little more diifficult to track down. All the Maryland Transportation Authority says is that he was a distinguished citizen of Harford County who devoted his life to public service. Google had little more to offer.

    Fortunately, The Sun library and researcher Paul McCardell were up to the challenge. It turns out that Hatem was a longtime Harford County Democratic political figure who served a term in the House of Delegates, a stretch as a county commissioner, a stint as state insurance commisioner and six years on the Public Service Commission. When he died at  59 in 1985, the Susquehanna River Toll Bridge was 46 years old and hadn't been named for anyone. His many friends thought naming the bridge from Harford to Cecil County after him would be a fine tribute. The next year it became the Hatem Bridge.

    Sun File Photo of the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge

    Incidentally, Maryland's other toll bridges are named after the writer of "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- the Francis Scott Key Bridge over the mouth of Baltimore Harbor -- and two governors.

    The William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bay Bridge, better known as the Bay Bridge, is named for the Democratic governor (1947-1951)  who lost his bid for re-election after raising the sales tax to -- among other things -- pay to build the original span of the Bay Bridge. Maryland made amends in 1967, shortly after his death, by naming the bridge for him.

    That same year, the state struck a partisan balance by naming the U.S. 301 bridge over the Potomac River for another one-term governor -- Republican Harry W. Nice (1935-1939). The bridge opened in 1940 but Nice was no longer in the State House. It seems the state income tax was adopted on his watch, and he failed to win renomination.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:51 PM | | Comments (2)
    Categories: Maryland toll facilities
            

    Race test in traffic decisions? Let's not go there

    So do we really need a racial test for the placement of speed cameras and parking meters? The city NAACP seems to think so.

    Baltimore NAACP President Marvin "Doc" Cheatham has called on Mayor Sheila Dixon and City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to convene an independent panel to vet such decisions for any signs of racial bias. The basis for this demand: "concern that discrimination is taking place."

    Cheatham offers little evidence of any bias -- except perhaps his own.

    On speed cameras, Cheatham raises the tired canard that speed cameras are "Just another way for the city to acquire revenue." Asked and answered in multiple public hearings: No. And what does that question have to do with bias?

    Then comes the assertion that "there seems to be  discriminatory factors as to where the speed cameras will be located."  Again, no evidence.

    On parking meters, Cheatham cherry-picks a few instances to suggest the city likes Italians and Jews more than it does African-Americans.

    The NAACP cited that there is three hours free parking in Little Italy, but meters/2 hours zones/pay to park zones elsewhere in the city.  It is questioned why this part of the city gets such privilege.  Additionally, there are parking meters on 26th street where the NAACP Baltimore City Branch is located, which has both residential and businesses, but there are no meters where the Jewish Museum of Maryland is located on Lloyd Street which also has both residential and business."

    Privilege? Does the NAACP think three hours of free parking is a gift to Little Italy residents? They must love competing with vistors for spaces. And what's this business of trying to draw a parallel between his own office and a major Jewish cultural institution over parking meters? Do we really need to go there?

    My take: You have a government of Baltimore with an African-American mayor and majority black Council. You ought to let them run the city government with the same administrative discretion exercised by all the white-majority adminstrations and councils before them. Anything else would  be discrimination.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:07 PM | | Comments (1)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    Drive Safely to Work Week begins in tragedy

    AAA Mid-Atlantic has announced that it is joining the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety to observe Drive Safely to Work Week today through Friday. The week is a national campaign to emphasize the importance of safe practices  to reduce preventable deaths.

    Sadly, the week began with a tragedy that hit far too close to home. Tim Wheatley, The Sun's business editor and a valued colleague, died this morning when his car was struck by a truck in Monkton as he was driving his daughter to school. She was critically injured. The crash is under investigation.

    The various traffic safety weeks that crop up through the year are easy to dismiss as a gimmick, and I almost always do. But today's events are a reminder that driving demands constant vigilance. As an AAA spokeswoman wrote, "the time you spend behind the wheel can be the most dangerous part of your day."

    Never forget it.

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:56 AM |
    Categories: On the roads
            

    October 2, 2009

    It's war on Ritchie Highway! (Gas war, that is)

    The price of gasoline continues to fall in Maryland -- with the statewide average dropping from $2.45 to $2.39 in the space of a week. But if you really want to enjoy the low-price action, head over to Ritchie Highway (Route 2)  in Anne Arundel County, where it appears a full-fledged gas price war has broken out.

    MarylandGasPrices.com is listing prices as low as $2.18 a gallon along the highway corridor, with several other stations in the Glen Burnie-Pasadena area offering fuel in the low $2.20s. The Laurel area is also a prime area for cheap gas.

    But what gives in Montgomery County? A lot of the stations in the Bethesda-Potomac-Rockville area are still above $2.60, according to the web site, with one as high as $2.89. It's long been known that the zone pricing in this state produces some strange variations, but the current price spreads are hard to explain.

    Maybe Attorney General Doug Gansler could get some answers.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:40 PM | | Comments (1)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    Who are these serial speeders?

    Don't you just love a good chart? One that really tells a story?

    This one comes from the Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight's recent report on the county's speed camera program, using data collected by the county police. It shows the number of tickets issued per vehicle -- and it's oddly fascinating.


    So two-thirds of the vehicles that were ticketed were caught only once. One might infer that their drivers got the message and slowed down -- at least in the camera zones. Another 19 percent needed another $40 reminder. Together the one-time and two-time losers account for 86 percent of those ticketed.

    So who are these other folks? Who is driving the seven vehicles that accumulated 30 or  more tickets within a two-year period? What is going through the heads of the drivers of the 1,667 "frequent flyers" who accumulated more than 10 tickets over 24 months?

    Here's a theory: There is a small but very dangerous cadre of drivers who have a total contempt for speed laws combined with an arrogant belief in their invulnerabity and a narcissistic focus on their own convenience at the expense of others' safety. These are people who are highly likely to eventually cause a serious crash but who fiercely resent any government efforts to curb their behavior.

    The current speed camera law treats the 30th offense with no more severity than the first offense. Wouldn't it make sense to have an escalating scale of penalties? For instance a fine of $400 for the 10th ticket in a two-year window.

    To anticipate an argument, I'm fully aware that the camera program targets vehicles rather than drivers. And certainly people occasionally lend out those vehicles to friends and family. But most drivers do most of the driving in their own cars. And if they are repeatedly lending out their vehicles to dangerous drivers, why should they not be held accountable?

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:20 PM | | Comments (9)
    Categories: On the roads
            

    October 1, 2009

    Obama tells federal workers: No DWT

    Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced that President Obama has signed an executive order instructing federal workers not to send text messages while driving government vehicles or driving their own vehicles while on the job.

     The order comes the same day that a new law takes effect in Maryland prohibiting driving while texting.  The announcement comes at the conclusion of a two-day conference in Washington on distracted driving. The administration also announced it would seek a ban on driving while texting by interstate truckers and bus operators.

    The executive order also forbids federal employees from texting while driving their own cars while using government-issued electronic devices. Obama also urged  federal contractors to adopt similar policies governing their employees.

    In a way, the federal government is following Maryland's lead. Gov. Martin O'Malley, at the urging of  the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation and other groups, signed a similar executive order covering state employees in May. Once a cutting-edge idea, the proposition that driving while texting should be addressed by employer policies as well as laws is becoming positively mainstream.

     

    The Maryland foundation had set a goal of bringing at least 100,000 employees in the state under employer mandates addresing such issues as DWT and cell pphone use behind the wheel. Foundation co-chairman said the group had been at 70,000 and that the addition of Maryland's vast federal work force would bring it over the top.

    "We'll only have to push our goal upwards," he said.

     

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:26 PM | | Comments (1)
            

    Montgomery report shows speed cameras work

    As law enforcement officials in Maryland move forward with the deployment of speed cameras under a new law that takes effect today, there comes new evidence from Montgomery County that the initiative will prove effective.

    In a report this week to the Montgomery County Council on that jurisdiction's  pioneering automated speed enforcement program, the Office of Legislative Oversight found that speeding had been cut in half and collisions had fallen 28 percent over one year in school zones and on residential streets where camera have been deployed.

    The report found that vehicle speeds in speed camera zones declined by 6 percent after a year in operation. The percentage of vehicles traveling over the speed limit fell from 25 percent to 13 percent.

     

    Where at the start of the program more than 2 percent of drivers in targeted zones were traveling 11 mph or more over the limit – the minimum for issuing a ticket under the Montgomery program – by the end of the year fewer than 1 percent were doing so.

    The speed cameras were especially effective in reducing crashes that resulted in injuries and fatalities – cutting them from 206 to 126 for a reduction of 39 percent. That’s 80 people spared death or injury in one county in one year under highly restricted rules.

    Meanwhile, the study undercut one of the most common objections to cameras – that they would increase the number of rear-end collisions because drivers would suddenly mash on their brakes as they came into the enforcement zones. In fact, the report found an 18 percent decline in rear-end crashes within a half-mile of the camera sites.

    Fact  such as these are unlikely to sway ideologues or hard-core speeders, but they provide solid support for those who believe modern technology should be enlisted in the fight to  cut needless highway carnage.

    Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:50 PM | | Comments (10)
    Categories: On the roads
            
    Keep reading
    Recent entries
    Archives
    Categories
    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.
    -- ADVERTISEMENT --

    Live traffic updates
    Most Recent Comments
    Baltimore Sun coverage
    Traffic and commuting news Subscribe to this feed
    Michael Dresser's Getting There column Subscribe to this feed
    Michael Dresser How-Tos

    How to avoid Delaware traveling north
    Obscure third route between Baltimore, D.C.
    Better routes for I-95 north
    How to avoid the Bay Bridge
    Find cheaper gas
    Check prices at area gas stations by ZIP code and find the lowest rates in the region with our new interactive gas map.

    Baltimore-area lowest gas prices
    Historical gas price charts
    Sign up for FREE local news alerts
    Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
    Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
    Sign up for local news text alerts

    Returning user? Update preferences.
    Sign up for more Sun text alerts
    *Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
    • Breaking News newsletter
    When a big news event breaks, we'll e-mail you the basics with links to up-to-date details.
    Sign up

    Charm City Current
    Traffic Resources
    Baltimore Metropolitan Council (Regional transportation planning)
    Maryland Department of Transportation (State transportation policy)
    Maryland Transit Administration (Buses, light rail, Metro, Mobility)
    State Highway Administration (Maintains numbered routes)
    Motor Vehicle Administration (Licenses, permits, rules of the road)
    Maryland Transportation Authority (Toll bridges, tunnels and highways)
    Maryland Aviation Administration (BWI and Martin Airport)
    AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report (Track Maryland average gas prices.)
    MarylandGasPrices.com (Find the lowest and highest prices.)
    SafeRoadMaps (Find out where the crashes happen.)
    Roads to the Future (Scott M. Kozel on Mid-Atlantic infrastructure.)
    WMATA (Washington metropolitan buses and Metro)
    Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (D.C. regional planning)
    U.S. Department of Transportation (federal transportation policy)
    Stay connected