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February 26, 2010

Interstate 68 now open

According to the State Highway Administration, all lanes of Interstate 68 are now open in both directions after being closed because of whiteout conditions near the Allegany-Garrett county line in this morning's snowstorm. The SHA describes driving conditions as "improving but still hazardous."
Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:31 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

SHA amplifies warning on Western Md. travel

Mountain Maryland is a wonderful place to visit -- but  not this weekend.

The State  Highway Administration is warning motorists that blizzard conditions are creating dangerous travel conditions in Garrett County and western Allegany County.

The SHA says heavy snow and high winds are bringing  "extremely hazardous" travel conditions along Interstate 68, U.S. 40 and other roads west of Cumberland. Dave Buck, an SHA spokesman, said the whiteout conditions are so bad in some places that drivers can't see more  than a few feet ahead of them.

The highway agency warns that  delays and hazardous conditions could last through much of the weekend. The SHA urges travelers to consider postponing westwatrd trips to let crews plow and treat roads.

Buck said conditions are deceptively ordinary as far west as Cumberland but deteriorate rapidly in the higher elevations closer to the Garrett County line. The Sun's Frank Roylance reports that Garrett County officials  have reimposed a state of emergency -- a significant step in a jurisdiction that normally shrugs off heavy snow.


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

SHA urges avoidance of I-68 beyond Cumberland

Now is not the time to head for Wisp -- or any of the other winter attractions of far Western Maryland.

 The State Highway says that even though Interstate 68, the main route to Allegany and Garrett counties, had been reopened after blizzard conditions forced its closing, a crash just east of the county line forced authorities to shut down the highway again.

The SHA reports that I-68 from downtown Cumberland to Hancock has beenj plowed to care pavement and is in good condition. However, blizzard conditions are affecting an area 10-15 miles west of Cumberland, and highway officials are unging motorists to travel west of Cumberland for now.

Earlier today, the Maryland State Police closed I-68 because of whiteout conditions and have been periodically reopening and closing it since then.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:43 AM |
Categories: On the roads

February 25, 2010

Transit activist Bob Keith dies

Bob Keith, a well-known activist on mass transit issues, was found dead Tuesday at his Fells Point home Tuesday, according to close friends. He was 78 and was undergoing treatment for emphysema.

Keith was a member of the Red Line Advicory Council and a persistent critic of the Maryland Transit Administration's plans for the east-west transit line. He was a familiar sight at Red Line hearings and meetings, where he would appear in nobviously fragile health, using a walker and portable ventilator but contest issues as vigorously as if he were a 20-year-old with excellent prospects of using the proposed line.

Fellow transit advocate Gerald Neily said he knew Keith as "a great and tireless champion for Baltimore."

"I got to know him, first when I was at the Baltimore City Planning Dept. working on Fells Point issues, and then working together with him as citizens," Neily said. "He was always creatively, intelligently and open-mindedly looking and advocating for better ways of doing things, and he always truly appreciated that which is great about Baltimore, and I will really miss him"






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

February 24, 2010

MTA prepares for up to 10 inches of snow

The Maryland Transit Administration says it is getting ready for up to 10 inches of snowfall Wednesday night and Thursday and expects to operate services as long as condiitions are safe for its passengers and employees.

The agency, having been buried by double-diigit snowfalls twice this month, is taking a wary approach to the coming snowfall. Forecasters are predicting amounts ranging from 2 to 7 inches.

The MTA saiid buses and trains will keep to their normal weekday schedules as long as it can. It noted that buses and and Mobility van and cab services depend on the conditions of the roadways, warning that some diversions and delays are possible as the snow accumulates.

The MTA said Metro subway and light rail crews will continuously monitor the condition of tracks and overhead wires. The agency said that during the storm it would operate empty trains to keep the tracks and wires clear.

Customers can call the MTA at 410-539-5000 from 6 AM to 7 PM or use  the MTA website at for information. It said  Mobility customers with scheduled trips should call 410-764-8181 to  learn the status of their rides.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:04 PM |

State says it's ready for 'whatever' on roads

With more snow in the forecast, the State Highway Administration says it's "prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings overnight and Thursday."

I don't know about you, but that kind of bravado makes me nervous. By now, we all know what Mother Nature can do if she sets her mind to it.

Overconfident or not, the highway agency says it's lying in wait for this storm with a replenished supply of about 200,000 tons of salt, nearly 2,400 pieces of equipment and 2,600 people. The SHA says it's spraying salt brine on highways, particularly bridges and ramps, to keep ice from sticking to road surfaces, particularly along Interstate 70 and Interstate 270 in Frederick County. It said its top officials will be monitoring the condition of state roads  from the agency's operations center in Hanover.

Good luck, folks. Let's hope Mother Nature  doesn't have any surprises behind her back.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:09 PM |
Categories: On the roads

Which are the worst Baltimore bottlenecks?

The worst place and time to be driving in metropolitan Baltimore is the westbound Beltway at Harford Road (Exit 31) on a Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., according to a national survey by a leading provider for traffic information to mapping companies.

According to the Intix National Traffic Scorecard for 2009, traffic there averaged 11 mph during that hour along a .79-mile segment of the Beltway.

Commuters on the western Beltway also have a strong claim to the title of worst bottleneck as Inrix ranked southbound Interstate 695 at Interstate 70 the No. 1 bottleneck overall. Wednesday mornings aside, the Beltway and Harford slipped into second place in the overall rankings.

Drivers who frequently experience these traffic horrors are encouraged to contact Michael Dresser at or 410-332-6175 this afternoon to discuss these bottlenecks and their overall views of congestion in Baltimore.


Eight of the top 10 Baltimore bottlenecks ranked in the survey are along the Beltway. The exceptions  are southbound Interstate 895 at Moravia Road (No. 4) and the northbound Baltimore-Washington Parkway at Canine Road (No. 8).

The other Beltway locations in the Top 10 are westbound at York Road, southbound at Interstate 795, northbound at I-70, eastbound at York Road, westbound at Cromwell Bridge Road and eastbound att Charles Street.

While each of the bottlenecks can mean irritating delays for Baltimore motorists, none ranks in the top 1,000 nationwide.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:55 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: On the roads

Baltimore ranked 16th worst in congestion

Baltimore's traffic congestion continued its slow climb into the top ranks among America's most jammed-up metropolitan areas last year, ranking 16th, according to a national survey.

The annual INRIX National Traffic Scoreboard shows Baltimore, the 20th largest metro area in population, steadily worsening relative to other cities since 2006.  That year it ranked 21st; by 2008 it was 17th.

According to INRIX, Baltimore was one of only three of the nation's largest cities to show an increase of more than 10 percent in congestion between 2008 and 2009. Washington and Las  Vegas were the other two.

The same survey showed that none of the nation's 100 worst traffic bottlenecks are in Maryland -- a finding that could puzzle  commuters on such frequently jammed highways as Interstate 95 near White Marsh or Interstate 270 in Montgomery County. Maryland's exclusion reflects the near-monopoly on the worst-bottleneck list held by the nation's three  most congested regions -- Los Angeles, New York and Chicago -- which together accounted for 88 of  the 100. The Washington region ranked 4th worst in congestion, up from 6th in 2008, but had none of  the leading bottlenecks.


To some extent, Baltimore's creep up the congestion rankings could reflect the relative strength of its economy during the recession,  which has  taken a toll on total driving miles nationally as people without jobs travel less. During the four-year period  during which it climbed up the ranks from 21st to  16th, hard-hit San Diego fell from 12th to 17th and similarly afflicted Riverside, Calif., felll from 13th to 18th. Both metro areas rank just above Baltimore in population.

According to the INRIX survey, Baltimore's  worst drive time  occurs about 5 p.m. Fridays -- a typical  time nationally.

According to INRIX the top 20 in congestion in 2009 were (2006 rank):

1. Los Angeles (1)

2. New York  (2)

3. Chicago    (3)

4. Washington (5)

5. Dallas (7)

6. Houston (9)

7. San Francisco (4)

8. Boston (11)

9. Seattle (6)

10. Philadelphia (14)

11. Atlanta (8)

12. Minneapolis (16)

13. Miami (10)

14. Phoenix (15)

15. Denver (17)

16. Baltimore (21)

17. San Diego (12)

18. Riverside CA (13)

19. San Jose CA (18)

20. Sacramento (20)




Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:12 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: On the roads

February 23, 2010

Roads look better, but lots of heaps remain

A couple hours of touring the side streets of Northeast Baltimore this afternoon showed that at long last the snow is gone down to the pavement on at least one lane of just about every street. But there are still heaps of snow -- heaps of heaps of snow -- in the roadways. Since most of them have acquired a thick coating of black grime, it isn't a pretty sight, but some of these heaps and heaping enough that they might not be gone until May.

Generally, these heaps are more of an inconvenience and an aesthetic blight than an impediment to traffic. But the city has allowed some to linger in the travel lanes -- putting the squeeze on traffic. There were several along Cold Spring Lane near Morgan State this evening narrowing what should be two travel lanes of a major road down to one. Two weeks after the last significant snowfall. that's inexcusable.

Certain neighborhoods in Northeast Baltimore -- among them Lauraville, Raspeburg and Hamilton Hills -- were among those that took the longest to be reached by snow removal operations. While those roads are passable now, there's still a lot of snow in the parking lanes.

Most of the lawn chairs and orange cones marking staked-out parking spaces have been removed, though there are still folks out there pushing their claim long after any legitimacy has expired. (What's the story on E. 32nd St., anyway?) Can't we reach a civic agreement that these extra-legal but understandable parking space claims expire after 72 hours -- no matter how much snow has fallen?















Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:15 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads

Walkers, transit riders get lost in high snow

Blogger Richard Layman has a well-reasoned article out focusing on the problems of maintaining walking and transit corridors during a snow emergency when it seemed all of government's efforts were focused on opening up travel lanes for vehicles. His article focuses on Washington, but a lot applies to Baltimore.

This has  been a serious issue in Baltimore and its environs in the wake to the double snowstorms that hit earlier this month. Sidewalk clearance was spotty at best, and many bus stops still remain inaccessible -- forcing transit riders to wait in the streets.

There's no easy answer to this problem when Baltimore is faced by as much snow as it was. The Maryland Transit Administration doesn't own the 8,000-some bus stops in the region, and the city doesn't have the resources to clear them all. And snow removal at a bus stop can be a much more hands-on job that it is on a  street.

But pedestrian and transit issues need to be a big part of any post-action review of regional snow removal efforts. We've been lucky the casulaty count among bus riders  and pedestrians has remained mercifully low given the dangers out there.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:48 PM | | Comments (6)

Drunk driving foes push interlock bill

A coalition of opponents of drunk driving, supported by the O'Malley administration, will hold a news conference Wednesday to drum up support for a bill that would require ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation, two of the organizations that have put the ambitiously named Eliminate Drunk Driving Act at the top of their legislative agendas, will be represented, along with lead sponsors Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Benjamin F. Kramer, both Montgomery County Democrats. AAA Mid-Atlantic is also on board for the noon news conference at Lawyers Mall in Annapolis.

Motor Vehicle Administrator John Kuo will represent the  administration. Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. The legislation faces strong opposition from the alcoholic beverage industry, which contends the interlock devices -- which prevent a vehicle from being started if its driver has been drinking alcohol -- are more appropriate for repeat offenders.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

February 22, 2010

Beltway closings postponed for weather

The Maryland Transportation Authority has called off its planned closing of the Outer Loop of the Beltway in the vicinity of the Curtis Creek drawbridge tonight because of the threat of poor weather.

The planned closing of the northbound Route 10 ramp to the eastbound Beltway, which had also been scheduled for 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., has also been called off. The left lane of the Outer Loop remains closed, as it is expected to remain until about March 28.

All lanes of the Inner Loop remain open now, but that loop is expected to close at 7 a.m. Saturday as part of the project to repair the defective drawbridge. Two-way traffic will run on the Outer Loop while the Inner Loop is closed.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:59 PM |

Reader wonders why Howard hasn't been cleared

Reader Dave Adler gives me far too much credit for getting the snow off Conway Street, but he has a good point about Howard Street. This is an important travel corridor that shouldn't be constricted two weeks after the last significant snowfall.

What's the city up to anyway?

OK, now that you've gotten Conway Street plowed...:-)

Any advice on how we can get the snow piles removed from Howard Street between North Ave and 28th street? I've called 311, put in a request, and still nothing has happened. Everything was very civil on both ends, and I appreciate that the city has this service...but it would be nice if they acted on the requests.

I figured with two weekends - one a three-day weekend - since the snow stopped, they'd have plowed it by now. But there are still travel lanes that can't be used. I'd say that we'll just wait for it to melt, but some of those piles are pretty large! I understand MLK and Howard are not I-395 or Conway street. But they are pretty major roads for those of us commuting up to Hopkins from the south.


 Dave Adler

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:33 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

February 19, 2010

Va. ends variable speed test at Wilson Bridge

The state of Virginia has just called a halt to a pilot project near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge under which it employed variable speed limits set using electronic signage. The default speed limit in the Wilson Bridge area will revert to the previous 55 mph.

Virginia officials are being coy about whether they regard the experiment as a success. John Undeland, a spokesman for the bridge project, said authorities will evaluate the results and hope to make them public this spring. The devices had been in full-time use since May on the stretch between the Potomac and the  Springfield interchange.

If the test is judged a success, it could lead to a widespread adoption of such speed controls in the region.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:50 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

Senator holds up OK of transportation chief

The Associated Press reports that a Prince George's County senator is hoolding up confirmation of the nomination of Beverly Swaim-Staley as transportation secretary.

Sen. Anthony Muse requested that the name of Swaim-Staley, the former deputy secretary who has been acting as provisional secretary since September, be separated from a  list of officials up for confirmation by voice vote.

Muse, a  Democrat, did not expresss any specific reservations about Swaim-Staley's qualifications but said he had a concern about the department's "fairness" to its workers. According to the AP, he did not elaborate. So  far, he has not returned a  message  left  by The Sun.

Generally, such actions  have little consequence. They are often the way for an individual senator to get a department's undivided attention regarding a constituent complaint or other issue. Swaim-Staley is not regarded as a particularly controversial nominee.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:47 PM |

February 18, 2010

Law and common sense in Maryland

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee was hearing a bill Thursday that would require drivers to move over or slow down when passing an emergency vehicle parked by the side ofr the road with its lights flashing -- a perfectly sensible law adopted by 47 states but not Maryland.

Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat, asked Bernard Shaw, who was testifying in favor of the bill for the Maryland Troopers Association, why we would need legislation to force people to do what is only common sense.

 Shaw's answer: Just drive down any road in the state of Maryland."

Nuff said.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:07 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads

AAA fights diversion of transportation funds

AAA Mid-Atlantic was down in Annapolis this week in opposition to a proposal by General Assembly analysts to divert about $60 million a year in state sales tax revenues from the Transportation Trust Fund to the general fund.

Instead AAA urged the legislature to erect a higher barrier against raids on the trust fund to close general fund budget gaps,

Analysts proposed that a temporary diversion in 2008 of funds from  the state sales increase adopted in the 2007 special session be made permanent as a way to help close future general fund shortfalls. Under Maryland's Constitution, that budget must be balanced. There is no requirement of minimum transportation funding.


AAA has previously supported various measures that would have insulated the transportation fund from being tapped when the budget falls short. This year it has endorsed a measure by Republican  Del. Susan Krebs seeting up barriers to such diversions and requiring a payback plan when the legislature does resort to such measures.

"The Transportation Trust Fund’s credibility is important," AAA testified.  "In 2008, we witnessed probably the fastest raid of the TTF ever seen, when money that was approved in the fall of 2007 and hadn’t even been disbursed, was diverted in April 2008."

Such proposals have failed before because legislators have viewed it as restricting their flexibility to deal with budget shortfalls.

AAA also testified in favor of a bill sponsored by Sen. Robert J. Garagiola, a Montgomery County Democrat, setting up a Blue-Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding to make recommendation for short-term and long-term plans to finance the state's transportation needs.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:12 PM | | Comments (2)

Transportation authority apologizes for I-395

Yesterday's posting reporting the problems that have afflicted inbound morning commuters coming off the Interstate 395 ramp and trying to merge into Conway Street brought a quick response from the Maryland Transportation Authority. It came in the form of an apology delivered by authority spokeswoman Kelly Melhem, who gave due credit to my colleague Larry Carson.

Melhem wrote:

We apologize to I-395 travelers who experienced delays getting into the City due to snow at Conway Street. We understand Baltimore City removed the snow from this intersection last night.


The MDTA assisted Baltimore City with initial snow-removal efforts last week and will continue to assist with snow clean-up on City streets, particularly those near MDTA facilities and interchanges, to help ensure a smooth passage between

I-95/I-895 and local City streets. MDTA and City officials also met this morning to identify additional areas where MDTA crews could assist with snow clean-up, including portions of Key Highway, Caton Avenue, Eastern Avenue and Hanover Street.

Thanks to you and Mr. Carson for raising this issue. There’s always room to improve what we do and how we do it. We also thank your readers for their patience as clean-up from these historic storms continues.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:28 PM | | Comments (3)

O'Malley reports traffic deaths down 52% this year

Gov. Martin O'Malley, who says he makes a practice of checking the daily reports from the State Police on mayhem around the state, reports that this morning's statistics show a 52 percent drop in year-to-date traffic fatalities. That means 32 people have died on Maryland roads this year, compared with 66 at this time last year.

"That means 34 lives that have been saved," he told the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation in Annapolis.

The unaudited numbers certainly reflect in part the driving hiatus that was forced on many Marylanders during this month's twin snowstorms, when the state went almost a full week without a traffic death. But that by itself wouldn't explain the entire reduction.

O'Malley suggested that contributing factors include a heightened sense of awareness among drivers of road dangers, stepped-up law enforcement and increased responsiveness to the message that "speed kills."

O'Malley also gave credit to young drivers.

"Children today, young drivers, are acting more responsibly when it comes to the issue of drinking and driving," he said.

O'Malley also gave a strong signal that he would look favorably on a proposal to require ignition interlock devices -- devices that prevent a car from being started if the driver has consumed alcohol -- for all those convicted of drunk driving if the bill reaches his desk. The governor said the measure, a top priority of the foundation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving -- is "probaably a good idea."



Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:41 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: On the roads

February 17, 2010

Could someone please fix Conway Street?

My Sun colleague Larry Carson reports that for the past two days, the main entrance to Baltimore from the south -- the confluence of Interstate 395 and Conway Street -- has been a bottleneck because a mound of snow creeps into one of two right-turn lanes at that point.

This intersection is the point where road maintenance is handed over from the Maryland Transportation Authority to the Baltimore Transportation Department. Collectively, the two agencies appear not to have been working together to assure a smooth transition in a critical location. One would hope the problem is fixed by Thursday morning. If it's not, it's time for the top officials of the two agencies to  kick some butt.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:26 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: On the roads

Some streets remain unplowed, city residents say

A week after Baltimore's last significant snowfall, some residents are continuing to report that they city has not reached streets that remain impassable.

Joan Jacobson, a Lauraville resident and former Evening Sun and Sun reporter, says that as of Wednesday afternoon, there were still streets in her community that remain untouched by city plow or front-loader.

"The only street that appears plowed is Grindon Avenue, but turning on Elsrode . . .  is like driving on an unpaved road in a third world country," she reports.

"As of today, the only sign of snow removal I saw was a Bobcat that came up Overland Avenue from Harford road (this is an important exit from the neighborhood that is still treacherous) but the Bobcat only removed a few inches of ice from a 20 foot stretch and left."

Another resident reported impassable roads Wednesday afternoon in the Raspeburg neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore, including Raspe Avenue and parts of Cedonia Road.

Cathy Chopper, a spokeswoman for the city Transportation Department, urged residents whose streets are still impassable to call 311. Some residents might have given up on the system siince the early days of the storms, when the lines were swamped. On Wednesday evening, I got  through on the second try after a bried wait on hold.



Getting There wants to continue to monitor conditions on city streets and appreciates reports from the public. A few requests:

1.) Use your full name. The brave are simply more credible. If there are good reasons to withhold or disguise your name, those requests will be granted.

2.) Be specific as to time and place, including neighborhood name and streets by name and block.

3.) Don't embellish. If your street hasn't been cleared since last Wednesday's storm, that's a good enough story without stretching it back to the previous Sunday. 

4.) Be current. Snow on the road now is news. Snow that wasn't cleared until Monday is history.

5.) Report what you know, not what your friends in another neighborhood tell you. Ask those friends to contact me directly. First-hand accounts are the only ones that are usable.

 6.) Decent quality pictures of unplowed streets  with very specific information as to when and where they were taken could be very useful. But send your best ONE -- not a bunch. Too many pictures crash email accounts.

Getting There thanks you.




Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:34 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

Maryland could benefit from 2 large federal grants

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that 51 projects in 41 states and the District of Columbia have been awarded $1.5 billion in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grants -- including two major projects worth $157 million in which Maryland is a participant.

A project called the National Gateway Freight Rail Corridor affecting Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia received a $98 million grant. This could be a big deal for the port of Baltimore. The Washington region, including suburban Maryland, should benefit from $58.8 million allocated to Priority Bus Transit in the that area.

According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, the work on the Gateway project will be concentrated on the inland states rather than Maryland.  Here's the project description from MDOT:

Project Description:
The National Gateway Project is a package of rail infrastructure and intermodal terminal projects that will enhance transportation service options along three major freight rail corridors owned and operated by CSX through the Midwest and along the Atlantic coast. The improvements will allow trains to carry double-stacked containers, increase freight capacity and make the corridor more marketable to major East Coast ports and shippers. TIGER funds will help complete the first corridor project, from Northwest Ohio to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, through West Virginia and Maryland.

•        Doubles rail capacity on a major freight rail corridor with no increase in noise, emissions or train length
•        Promotes rail as a cost-effective alternative to long-haul trucking, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the Nation’s dependence on oil
•        Saves in shipper and logistics costs and significantly increases freight capacity
•        Significant portions of the investments in this corridor are in economically distressed areas

The Washington area transit project is expected to go a long way toward speeding bus travel in that region. Here's MDOT's description:

Project Description:
The project will provide more efficient bus service along 13 transit corridors in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., by investing in a bus transitway, bus-only lanes, transit signal priority, traffic signal management, real-time arrival technology and other enhancements. TIGER funds will be used to construct a new transit center at the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue on the border of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland which will consolidate scattered bus stops at a heavily used bus transfer point into one facility. TIGER funds will also provide station improvements (bus bays, real time bus information and other improvements) supporting bus priority on the I-95/395 corridor.

•        Significantly improves the performance of the region’s transportation network, providing more choices to more travelers, including low-income and transit-dependent residents
•        Reflects extensive, multi-jurisdictional planning efforts
•        Many of the areas to be served by these projects are economically distressed areas.




Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:38 PM |

Plow contractor has had it up to here with trucks

Fred L. Rush Jr., is a Churchville snow removal contractor who knows trucks and trucking. He read my two recent articles about truckers who jackknife their rigs at the worst places in snowstorms. His reaction is a lesson for the trucking industry in how a few bad actors can tarnish the reputations of all who operate tractor-trailers. I'll let Rush tell his story:

 I am a 59 year old snow removal contractor in Harford County utilizing 15 trucks and loaders for snow removal. I have had a commercial drivers license since I was 16 years old, driving large lumber trucks for my father and now operating my own dump trucks. Throughout our snow removal operations in the past and especially this winter season I have never seen so many tractor trailer drivers trying to operate in dangerous & blizzard conditions greatly endangering the lives of anyone else on the road.

 At the Joppatowne Shopping Center in Harford County on U.S. Route 40 Wednesday evening (Feb. 10) at approximately 5:00 pm in near white out conditions we had a tractor trailer who was northbound and could not make it up the hill on Route 40 next to the shopping center (Route 40 was so bad at this time that my F550 Ford Dump truck with a GVW of 19,500 & 4 Wheel Drive could not travel on Route 40 at over 20 MPH), next thing we know the tractor trailer pulls into our shopping center and drives behind a Redners Food Market and gets stuck blocking the loading docks.

We had five trucks & two loaders onsite working and they were furious that the idiot would for some reason drive behind the shopping center and impede our snow removal operations. We finally got him going even after he got stuck again in front of the Redners store and we let him park in the front of the shopping center out of our way to keep him off the road and from killing himself or some other poor soul.

One of my Snow Plow Operators drives a tractor trailer for a living full time, I asked him if he would operate in these kinds of conditions and he told me he would have gotten off the road as soon as the storm started and agreed that this driver was an idiot.

We continually have these tractor trailers pulling into our lot & getting stuck and impeding our snow removal operations. We end up pushing out a place for them to park to get them out of our way. Any truck driver that can defend operationg a tractor trailer in these kind of weather conditions is a idiot in the least. These guys are traveling around in a 80,000 pound bomb and have no regard for life or property. The Government's CDL program has done nothing to increase the safety of the Public and is a joke, they worry more about you having a light out than if you are driving safely.

As far as cars causing some of the problems I can't count how many times I've seen tractor trailers cutting people off or tailgating cars especially when all lanes are full and there is no where to go. I remember back a few years ago when I was hauling salt out of the Harvey Salt Co. on Keith Avenue just before the Fort McHenry Toll Booth. On my 2nd or 3rd load I approached the Keith Avenue exit and there is a tractor trailer flipped over on its side, perpendicular to the toll booths and about twenty feet from them. I wondered how the driver could have approached the toll booths at such a speed to be able to flip his truck in this manner and also wondered if the toll booth attendants had to get a change of underwear after seeing this happen.

I think your article was on the money and that any tractor trailer driving disputing these facts should have his CDL revoked.

Thank you,

Fred L. Rush, Jr.

 Rush Contracting Co., Inc.

Where Rush is right on point is his criticism of truckers who took their rigs out on the highway at the height of last week's blizzard-like snowstorm. Some of  those who defended jack-knifing tractor-trailers drivers blamed the conditions or the lack  of weight aboard the trailers. To me, it goes without saying that if the conditions are too bad or  the trailer is too light, the truck doesn't belong on the road. State and local authorities were publicly urging drivers to stay off the roads, and I don't recall them making an exception for truckers. I know people want their deliveries, but at some point safety has to come first.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:17 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

Many bus stops still heaped in snow

Reader Marian Foreman raises an important point: As much as drivers complain about snow-choked streets, public transit riders face signigicant challenges too in the form of bus strops that haven't been shoveled out -- forcing patrons to stand in the street.

I don't know that the Maryland  Transit Administration can be expected to shovel out each of the thousands of stops in the Baltimore region. The city has its hands full plowing the streets. Clearing bus stops would seem to be an appropriate community endeavor.

Here's an excerpt from Ms. Foreman's email. She sent it Tuesday, but a drive thhroough West Baltimore showed not much has changed, as seen in the photo (right) from a Route 5 bus stop on Druid Park Avenue.


 This concerns a very important transportation issue for the Baltimore area. I am talking about MTA bus stops covered up in four, five or six foot high piles of snow. This has led to a very hazardous problems for MTA passengers.

I know you've seen it driving around the city and counties in your vehicle. What I am talking about is people waiting for MTA buses and standing in the street.


     Sun photo/Michael Dresser

(On Monday), I was out and about and on Old Court Road in Randallstown, I saw the following: A young guy with two small very restless children waiting in the street for the 77 bus. I saw a young woman on Liberty Road with a baby in a stroller and the stroller was practically out into the middle of the street because she had no place else to stand waiting for a bus. I saw a woman in an electric wheel chair at Liberty Road and Resource Drive waiting for a bus practically in the middle of the street.

These people have no place to stand and safely wait for a bus. I have e-mailed the MTA twice and inquired about them getting crews out to at least shovel or plow a small patch on these bus stops so that pedestrians can wait safely for a bus. So far, I have gotten zero response from the MTA. Perhaps an inquiry or article from you can assist in getting this problem resolved.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:48 AM | | Comments (10)

February 16, 2010

Apologies for slow postings

While we try to keep postings of comments timely on Getting There, there was a little slippage over the past two days. Today was a particular challenge as the pace of reporting got in the way of posting comments. We'll try not to let that happen again.

Just a reminder: This is a moderated site. We try not to stifle freedom of expression -- even when it gets a bit personal. We do draw the line at hard-core profanity. (Think George Carlin's seven words.) Name calling of one commenter by another is also not allowed. (I hate to edit remarks but did so in the case of one who wrote a long posting that was within bounds but ended it with the words "you creep." Those hit the floor.

Some postings are omitted because of a lack of relevance to  the subject matter of transportation. If it looks like an advertisement for a  product or service, it won't be used. Copies of letters  to officialdom will be judged on a case-by-case basis. If it's too specific  and doesn't make a point of general interest, it may not make the cut. It's generally better to write to the author or to the blog itself. Posters can send copies of documents to

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:24 PM | | Comments (3)

MTA Metro rider finds woe in the snow

The Big Snows of February 2010 have spawned many a commuting horror story, but Tony Todesco's tale of his woes on the Baltimore Metro and its shuttle bus "replacement" ranks right up there. Methinks Maryland Transit Administrator Ralign Wells has an apology letter to compose. If he needs any groveling tips, his predecessor, Paul J. Wiedefeld, was really good at self-abasement in the cause of customer service.

Todesco writes:

When I got to the Old Court Metro station on Friday morning, I learned that the Metro was only operating underground from Mondawmin to Hopkins, but there was a bus to transport patrons to Mondawmin to get the Metro.  Before getting on the bus, I asked the driver which bus I should take to return later that night.  He told me to take the #59. (this has meaning later in the story)

I got on the bus, which stopped at every single Metro station, then at Mondawmin.  A usual 45-minute commute took 2.5 hours that morning.

Little did I know that my morning commute was kids play compared to the evening ride.  A coworker and I left our offices on Greene Street at 5:30 p.m., walked to the Metro and waited  about 20 minutes for the train.  We got off at Mondawmin and proceeded to the bus area.  As I am not very familiar with bus service, we spoke to two men at the information booth to confirm that we needed to take the #59 to get back to the Old Court Metro station where my car was parked.  Both MTA information officials confirmed that we wanted the #59.

 When the #59 arrived, my coworker and I squeezed onto the bus with dozens of other people.  We were in the back, sandwiched into the back doorway.  Before leaving, the driver said something incomprehensible about Reisterstown Road that I guess we were supposed to hear through all of the people jammed together, then he just took off.

 We proceeded to stop at two Metro stops, then onto Reisterstown Road and to my horror, we crossed Old Court Road and it was obvious to me that he was not going to the Metro Station there.  We rang the bell on the bus, and I assumed he would stop in front of the Target bus stop which is before the Beltway.  Instead, he waited to cross the Beltway and left us stranded at a gas station there. 

We assessed the situation and decided to call a cab because the bus stop on the other side of the road had snow taller than either of us.  The cab company put us on hold forever, so we started calling friends and one was home who could take us to my car.

 The 45-minute commute took 3 hours that night.

This morning, I went online to see the status of the Metro.  The MTA’s website said that it was operating from Old Court to Hopkins, and the really kicker is that it notes the bus #59 should be used to commute to Mondawmin.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:57 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Baltimore Metro

City to lift Phase 2 snow rules at midnight

Baltimore will be lifting its Phase 2 snow emergency at midnight, thus allowing parking in snow emergency lanes where it has been prohibited since the snows began falling Feb. 5-6, city Transportation Department spokeswoman Kathy Chopper says.

But if you're one of the many still parked in such zones, you can't rest easy yet. The city will keep towing tonight up to the point when the restrictions are lifted, Chopper said.

Would that lifting the emergency meant that the snow was going away.




Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:13 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads

Downtown Partnership warns property owners

This just in from the Downtown Partnership:

From Downtown Partnership:
Snow and Ice Removal
We're halfway through the snowiest winter in this state's history and, as weve been reminding Downtown property owners, if you own or manage a property in Baltimore City, it is your legal obligation to remove snow and ice around your entire property. Unfortunately, there are many locations that have not been cleared. So, we have compiled a list of these addresses and City officials will begin issuing citations to the property owners beginning on Wednesday, February 17.

It is unfortunate that, even after several friendly reminders, some property owners are not shouldering their responsibility. If you are among those who have not cleared away the snow and ice, please do so immediately. It will keep Downtown workers, residents, and visitors safe. And, its the law.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:14 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

A bad commute from all directions

This morning brought what was really the first full-fledged commuting day since this snow nonsense began Feb. 5 -- and Baltimore flunked it big time.

Commuters coming to the city  from virtually every direction encountered massive delays. Mine, using Russell Street and Martin Luther King Blvd., was only a little worse than usual. But many people encountered far more severe delays.

Because it s not inconceivable that the same challenged will face us tomorrow, Getting There has commpiled a selections of problems various people (mostly Sun colleagues) ran into. We'll be pressing the city for answers about why it's taking so long to restore normal traffic. (Besides the fact we've had a boatload of snow by Buffalo standards.)

From the south, there were multiple problems. Interstate 95 was backed up to the Beltway, largely because of problems on Interstate 395 and Conway Street. (There's a reason I took Russell, though it was backed up too.) One colleague noticed that the normal two right turn lanes onto Conway were narrowed to one -- further narrowing an already tight bottleneck. One colleague reported a 15-minute backup at that point about 9:30 a.m. Another commuter reported a serious crash about Caton Avenue about 7:30 a.m, slowing the early commute.

Another colleague reported that the trip from Annapolis to Baltimore  went smoothly on U.S. 50 and Interstate 97  but ground to a halt on Route 295 and Russell Street. That trip took her two hours -- 90 minutes of it in that final segment getting into downtown.

The loss  of lanes  because of piled-high snow seems to be a common theme in many of the tales of commuting woes.

A colleague who came in from the west ran into that problem as he drove in from Catonsville on Edmondson Avenue (U.S. 40). What is normally a 25-minute drive took him an hour, with bumper-to-bumper traffic develping as soon as he crossed the city line. He noted that there were only two of the normal three lanes opened eastbound and that in some spots it was narrowede down to one because oof snow-clearing that obviously coulodn't be done during tthe three-day weekend and had to be done during peak travel hours.

The journey from the north into downtown wans't much better -- and might have been worse.

One colleague reported that it took 85 minutes to drive the approximately 4 miles from the entrance to GMBC on Charles Street, to Lake Avenue, to Roland Avenue, to Northern Parkway.

It wasn't much  better in the York Road corridor. Cameron Barry of Rodgets Forge reprted that he left his home at 8 a.m. to go downtown in time to teach his 9:30 a.m. class at  the Univeristy of Baltimore - usually a 20-minute trip.  He said that by 9:15,  he had to call in and cancel the class because he hadn't made it farther than Homeland Avenue. He said he tried taking Northhern Parkway to Charles Street but found that nobody could  turn left on Charles St.  because it was so backed up. He turned around in a church driveway and headed back to YYork but found that there was a construction zone  backing up traffic at he turned around in a church driveway and headed back through Govans to York Rd.  That seemed better at first until I arrived at Woodbourne Ave., where a construction zone was backing up traffic. So he headed west on Woodbourne to Charles  and found  it still backed up. It was the he decided to call it quits.  

According to Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the Department of Public, traffic was complicated on the York-Greenmeount corridor by schedulued utility work at 39th Street and an emergency repair where the street sunk in at the site of an old utility job at 30th Street. He said the emergency, which was called in at 9:30 a.m., took two hours to fix. He said the department decided to go ahead with the scheduled job because it is an important water main valve repair and because it, along with many other projects, has already been delayed by the snow.

Trying alternate routes didn't work for Tammie Monaco either. "Coming down from Upperco in northern Baltimore County, I tried Falls Road, gave up on that and got on 83," she wrote.  "Even 83 was terrible so I got off and got on Falls Road again.  Falls was at a standstill so I did a U-turn and got back on 83.  Geez!  Did people who took last week off forget how to drive?!?  Or did those few little flurries put people over the edge?!?  And the schools were off today too.  What's it going to be like tomorrow when everyone is back on the roads?"

Others, who came south later in the morning, reported that I-83 was moving briskly. but Another commuter reported that he ran into major backups on Bellona, Gittings, Charles, Lake, Falls and Northern Parkway -- all between about 8:40 and 9:45.

Fewer complaints came in from the east and northeast but there were still reports of delays of about 15 minutes on Pulaski Highway and Harford Road.

Complicating the problems were a large number of pedestrians who either were forced into the street because of a lack of clear sidewalks or who emerged suddenly from behind large snow mounds. Prudent drivers, watching carefully from what was lurking in the blind spots behind the mounds, were driving more slowly than usual -- with good justification.

Another serious impediment to getting around was the difficulty garbage trucks were having in making their collections. In many, if not most, cases garbage trucks couldn't use curb lanes and had to stop in the street  to pick up garbage. And alleys normally used to pick up trash were in many cases impassable, forcing trucks to use the streets. And while people who were driving in manhy cases were delayed, the folks living in those houses were often quite anxious to say goodbye to trash that had been sitting around for more than a week. said Department of Public Works spokeswoman Celeste Amato.

If you have a particularly interesting commuting story that you don't mind sharing with The Sun's readers between now and about 5:30 p.m., please email it to Please be specific  about times and places.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:43 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

February 12, 2010

Hamiltonian has had it with unplowed streets

Maria Allwine of Hamilton copied Getting There Friday night on the following letter to city Councilman Robert Curran. I think she speaks for a lot of people.

Dear Mr. Curran:

I appreciate your telephone response to my email to you of several days ago; however, I have been unable to get through to 311.  I have been calling off and on since Monday and get a fast busy. Our phones are working fine.  Obviously 311 is a tad overloaded.


What I would appreciate your answer to is:

1. Why should I be expected to request city services for which my taxpayer dollars are supposed to provide me?

2. How would I or anyone else be expected to know to do this – and to call 311?

3. Why is it absolutely impossible to get 311?

4. When should my elderly neighbors and I expect to see the first snow plow on our streets?

My husband and I, both of us in our late 50s with serious back problems, have spent 10 hours shoveling not only our sidewalks and driveways, but our streets as well - twice.  We can just about handle our sidewalks and driveways, but there is no way we can shovel our street – twice – without help.  We have shelled out $165 for the help we needed to shovel over 5 feet of snow from the street in front of our house - twice.  I am yet again “laid off” from my job and can little afford this expense, along with the rise in my mortgage payment due to the increase in property taxes.

This is, to put it mildly, outrageous.  I grew up in Baltimore and the streets were always – and I mean – always plowed.  In fact I grew up not far from where we live now and never experienced such an abysmal and pathetic lack of response from the city. 

For the governor to excoriate us for complaining about not getting what we are paying for is outrageous and arrogant, but typical for this governor.  All I want from him is for him to shut his mouth and get to work making sure that everyone’s streets is plowed regardless of who lives in what neighborhood. 

My husband and I went out today and noticed, which was no surprise, that the streets in Homeland, most of them narrower than ours, were plowed quite nicely thank you.  It is obvious that our city officials determine who gets those services according to the amount of money and votes they feel deserve those services.  For some neighborhoods to be completely clear and others, like Hamilton, to have yet to see a plow, is nothing but an obvious choice being made by city officials.  Sorry, but that’s the truth and the only way to look at it.

We in the Hamilton area have yet to see one snow plow since last Friday.  Old Harford Road, a secondary and heavily used road, remains one lane only, a dangerous situation.  Louise, Marietta, Hemlock, Westfield, Hamlet, etc. – this is a neighborhood of many elderly people who cannot afford to pay for what the city owes them.  My husband and I have gone door to door to go to the store for our neighbors and to make sure they are all right but the one thing we have not been able to do – after we’ve dealt with our street, sidewalks and driveway – is shovel for them.  We are exhausted and in a good deal of back pain today.

You can bet that once this city is back to normal, weather-wise, I will be making some waves over the absolute lack of caring and interest shown this – and many other – areas.  We pay the same taxes as everyone else and expect the same services as everyone else.  If the city has money for tax breaks for developers who build hotels, it damn sure better find the money to plow our streets.

Maria Allwine

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:47 PM | | Comments (29)
Categories: On the roads

State's streak of days without highway deaths ends

In a grim sort of way, things are getting back to normal in Maryland.

After a remarkable stretch of about a week without a traffic fatality on Maryland roads, two men died in separate crashes overnight in Rockville and Hagerstown.

 Neither the State Police nor the State Highway Administration knew exactly when the last previous  highway death occurred in Maryland. It is possible that the state hit the one-week mark before the 8 p.m. Thursday fatal crash in Rockville broke a streak that authorities attributed to reduced driving during the twin storms  that began a week ago Friday evening, the slower speeds driven by those who were on the roads and an unusual amount of careful driving for a state in which 10-12 people die on the roads in a typical week.

In the Rockville crash, a 62-year-old man died  in the collision of  a 2004 Chevy Silverado and a 1995  Ford Explorer, according to State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. Few other details were available.

The Hagerstown crash took place Friday morning about 4 a.m. when the driver of a 2001 Chevrolet Impala crashed into a guardrail at high speed on Interstate 81 near Halfway Boulevard and overturned, according to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. A passenger in the car, Jeremy D. Hollins of  New York, was ejected through the rear window and pronounced dead  at the scene. Other occupants of the vehicle were injured.

The crash is under investigation by the state police.  Shipley said the preliminary indication is that drugs or alcohol might have been involved.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:01 PM |

NTSB to probe D.C. Metro Red Line derailing

The National Transportation Safety Board, which already has several active investigations of mishaps on the Washington Metro open, has just announced it will launch an investigation of this morning's derailment on the Metro's Red Line
Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:18 PM |

D.C. subway line reopens after derailment

The snake-bit Washington Metro has recorded yet another safety problem -- this time a derailment on the Red Line that injured three. Here's how the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is reporting the mishap:

The Farragut North Metrorail station reopened at 12:11 p.m. today (Feb. 12) after a six-car Red Line train headed in the direction of Shady Grove Metrorail station, which derailed from a pocket track (side track) just after it serviced the Farragut North Metrorail station.

There were three minor injuries of bumps and bruises reported. The incident took place at 10:13 a.m. Trains will be restricted to a speed of 25 mph between Dupont Circle and Farragut North Metrorail stations while Metro officials investigate the incident.

 Metro officials and local first responders are at the scene to investigate. Metro officials moved all customers to the rear four cars of the train. Those four cars then were separated from the front two cars to allow the four car train to move to the platform to unload the passengers. There were approximately 345 people on board the train.

The front wheels of train number 156’s lead car came off the tracks. The rail cars that comprised the train were 6096 (lead car), 6097, 1197, 1196, 6039 and 6038. The first two cars of the train (rail cars 6096 and 6097) remain in the pocket track. They are expected to be removed after the rail system closes tonight at midnight.

Metro officials notified the Tri-State Oversight Committee and the National Transportation Safety Board of the incident.

Metro is offering limited service on the Red Line between Glenmont and White Flint. The Shady Grove, Twinbrook and Rockville stations remain closed for snow removal. All other lines are operating end to end.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:44 PM |
Categories: WMATA/D.C. Metro

Price of light rail ride is a frigid hour's wait

Sun photo/Michael Dresser

Light rail train rolls into BWI Business District station Friday morning, headed for the airport.

When Blanche Avery's shuttle bus arrived at the BWI Business District light rail station Friday morning about 9:45 a.m., she was filled with warm thoughts of her East Baltimore home and freedom. She had been trapped by the snow emergency at her cafeteria job since Sunday, working 12-hour shifts and sleeping in her boss's office.

"This is my getting back in civilization," she said. "Hello, world!"

But for most of the next hour, Avery cooled her heels in a frigid outdoor shelter, entertaining growing doubts whether the trains were running at all. As the time dragged on with nary a train in sight, her views of the Maryland Transit Administration grew progressively more frosty.

"They don't communicate well with the people at all," she said. "It's like, 'Hey, communicate with the customers.'"

Though the MTA was telling people the restored light rail service was running at 30-minute intervals, it wasn't until 10:42 a.m. that the first train glided into the last station before its terminus at BWI Marshall Airport. The train was headed for the airport, but Avery and most of the other Baltimore-bound passengers boarded. That way, they could get warm before the train made the return journey toward Hunt Valley on the single track that was in operation.


The long, cold wait reinforced Keith Humphrey's negative impression of mass transit in Baltimore. The former Chicago resident, who has lived here six months, has not been impressed.

"Out of seven states and six cities I've lived in, I've never [experienced] public transportation as horrible as in Baltimore, Maryland," said Humphrey, a regular light rail rider who was going home from his job at Fort Meade for the first time in a week.

Other riders who waited shorter times were just happy to see the light rail service, which had been suspended at the height of last weekend's and Wednesday's blizzards, back on track.

Janice Horsey boarded at Cherry Hill with her two young great-grandsons,  5-year-old Zion Billy and 3-year-old Nahim Billy, bound for Lexington Market and the boys' "usual treat."

"I'm glad to be out of the house. I was  going nuts," she said. "The first time I saw a bus running  and it stopped, it was like Christmas morning."

As the train rolled through downtown at an unusually slow speed, workers using plows and front-end loaders could be seen clearing the second track on still-snowy Howard Street.

Cheron Wicker, an MTA spokeswoman, said the unavailability of the second track was the likely explanation for the slow service. She said it had been "very challenging" to  restore the light rail line, but added that with better weather the MTA should be able to ramp up service.

"It's an hour-by-hour thing right now," she said.

There were some consolations for the MTA. The parking lot at the BWI Business District was fully plowed down to pavement and plenty of spaces were available. And the No. 17 bus was running frequently, with about a half dozen buses on the route stopping at the station while a reporter waited for a train.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:06 PM | | Comments (17)

February 11, 2010

Amtrak trip to New York is 7-hour ordeal

The Sun's Paul West reports that Amtrak Train 174 from Washington to Boston, which he was aboard, arrived in New York's Penn Station just before 6 p.m. after a seven hour trip punctuated with snow-related delays.

The train arrived after one boarding, two re-boardings (including an Acela "rescue" after a breakdown just north of Baltimore).

West described the seven-hour trip as the rail equivalent of a bad day at the Jersey Turnpike, but found it less than surprising in light of the record snows.

Part two of the trip, for passengers headed north to Boston and intermediate stops, will require another train transfer in New York. "Will there be a bar car?" a passenger asked the conductor. He received no reply.


The rain originally became disabled between Essex and Middle River in the vicinity of Orems and Compass roads. Passengers were transferred to an Acela train.

There were no injuries, but conditions were crowded on the stranded train, with many passengers standing.

According to a conductor, the train may have hit a snowdrift, causing damage. The conductor said the undercarriages of the trains are ice-clogged and that a big chunk could have broken loose and damaged the underbody. 

 "For what it's worth, I heard a loud clunk under our car shortly before the train stopped," the conductor said.

An Acela rescue train, fully loaded with a standing-room-only passenger load, picked up the passengers but stopped unexpectedly about 10 or 15 minutes outside Wilmington. There was a P.A. announcement that the train was "having trouble with one of our cars and the conductor has gone outside to look."

After less than 5 minutes the Acela started rolling again. It moved at a measured pace for Philadelphia, where it unloaded the passengers from the disabled train and headed for New York, well behind schedule. 

The substitute train out of Philly, with passengers from four Amtrak trains, made it a few hundred yards from the station before it stopped. Engine trouble. A technician came from the station to see if he could get it moving. It did, but at a walking pace, creeping across from the snowy, scenic Schuykill River as the late afternoon sun illuminated the city.

West said passengers  griping about the delays  seemed mystified by the disruption. Considering all the people who don't have power, haven't had their street plowed, haven't seen their families for days because they had to work and stay at a hotel for nights on end, West was not convinced it was such a big deal.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:04 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads

Subways' aboveground service may not reopen

While many transit services will be back in operation Friday morning. Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said she expecte it to take some days before above-ground service on the Baltimore and Washington subways can be restored.

According to Swaim-Staley, both systems are having difficulty shoveling out the tracks. The loss of the Metro line from Mondawmin Mall to Owings Mills is a bearable blow for Baltimore, and Swaim-Staley said the Maryland Transit Administration willl offer shuttle bus service for Metro riders.

The loss of Metro aboveground service would be a tougher blow for Washington, which depends heavily on its extensive subway system  to move government workers from Maryland and Virginia to the city. We're still waiting for word on what the federal government will do, but the state of the Metro could play a big role in the decision.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:45 PM | | Comments (1)

Port reopens, expects ships tonight

The Port of Baltimore will reopen at 7 p.m.Thursday after a full day of removing snow from its terminals, state Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said. The port is expecting 2-4 ships to call tonight, she said.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:38 PM |

O'Malley urges Marylanders to help neighbors

At his midday news briefing, Gov. Martin O'Malley urged snowbound Marylanders too check on their neighbors -- especially the elderly -- and to help them shovel out if they can. For those who don't know their neighbors, he described the snow emergecy as an opportunity to get to meet them.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:24 PM |

Maryland transit, port recovering from snowstorm

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said Maryland Transit Administration bus routes are coming back into service after operations were suspended at the height of Wednesday's blizzard.

Swaim-Staley said light rail had resumed service from Hunt Valley to BWI Marshall Airport and Glen Burnie but was not making all stops because of the condition of stations. The subway systems in Baltimore  and Washington were serving underground stations only but officials hope to restore above-ground service Friday.

The Mobility van and cab service for the disabled was giving priority to medical calls, especially from kidney dialysis patients, Swaim-Staley said.

The transportation chief said the port of Baltimore is closed as crews concentrate of clearing out the terminals. She said some ships are expected to arrive this evening.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:12 PM |

Amtrak train stalls north of Baltimore

A northbound Amtrak train (No. 174) from DC to Boston became disabled between Essex and Middle River in the vicinity of Orems and Compass roads. Passengers were transferred to an Acela train.

There were no injuries, but conitions were crowded on the stranded train, with many passengers standing.

According to a conductor, the train may have hit a snowdrift, causing damage. The conductor said the undercarriages  of the trains are ice-clogged and that a big chunk could have broken loose and damaged the  underbody. 

 "For what it's worth, I heard a loud clunk under our car shortly before the train stopped," the conductor said.

POSTSCRIPT:  The Acela rescue train, fully loaded with a standing-room-only passenger load,  now stopped unexpectedly about 10 or 15 minutes outside Wilmington.  There was a P.A. announcement that the train was "having trouble with one of our cars and the conductor has gone outside to look."

After less than 5 minutes the Acela started rolling again

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:00 PM |
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads

BWI 'up and running' but many flights canceled

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley says BWI Marshall Airport is 'up and running" but warned travelers  to call their airlines before heading to the airport because many flights  have been canceled.

At the airport this morning, a visitor could see almost no departing flights going out because airlines are still getting their planes back to BWI -- having flown their equipment  out before the second of two snowstorms hit Tuesday night.

Both of the main commercial runways, as well as taxiways and gate areas,  have been cleared, and cargo carriers were flying in and out of the airport. Crews were working to remove the remaining snow that had been piled in huge heaps outside the most sensitive areas.

The airport should be back in full operation Friday, Maryland Aviation Administration chief Paul J. Wiedefeld said.




Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:55 PM |

O'Malley reports good progress on main highways

Gov. Martin O'Malley reported during a noon briefing that state road crews made "a lot of headway" on Maryland''s main highways last night and this morning -- thanks largely to the restraint of residents who have stayed off the roads.

O'Malley said the state had been "blessed" in that  the gusty winds that had been expected to rake the state did not  kick up to the extent that had been expected. But heavy winds in some counties -- notably Frederick and Harford -- created drifts that trapped some motorists overnight.

The governor said emergency response teams were working to reach motorists -- many along U.S. 15 and U.S. 340 in Frederick County -- who had been forced to spend the night in their cars. He said officials were using helicopters to spot stranded  vehicles and going low to determine whether there were people trapped inside. Some of those drivers were  staying in touch by cell phones.


O'Malley urged Marylanders to continue to stay off the roads if they can. For those who must venture out he offered a warning:

"It's still very treacherous out there. You've got to go slow," he said. The governor urged motorists to be especially vigilant in watching for pedestrians using the travel lanes of main roads where the shoulders and sidewalks are impassable.

Here are other highlights of O'Malleys's noon briefing:

--8,200 Maryland utility customers are without power. The greatest number are in Cecil County, with 2,200, followed by Montgomery (1,968) and Frederick (1,911).

--In some cases state road crews have been freed up to hellp localities shovel out. In Baltimore, state crews have continued to clear out numbered state routes within the city limits. In normal circumstance the city takes over at the border, but O'Malley said it made little sense to plow to the city line and stop.

--There have still been no fatalities in crashes on state roads since the storm began -- a remarkable six-day streak in a state that  normally records 10-12 highway deaths a week.

--The state of emergency originally declared last week remains in effect today and likely into tomorrow.

--The National Guard remains deployed under that state of emergency and is assisting in the rescue of stranded motorists.

--Many roads will not be cleared  down to the pavement for several days. "All of us have to be prepared for the reality of driving on snowpack as Americans who live in Iowa or Minnesota," he said.








Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:19 PM |

February 10, 2010

Maryland digs big snow, but without big trucks

I'll give the last word before Getting There signs off for today to state Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen, who has been working long and hard since these storms began to keep Maryland's highways passable.

He noted that while Maryland has just gone though two storms of Buffalonian proportions, it does not own as many trucks or as many monstrous pieces of equipment as those that the disposal of authorities in Buffalo or other northern areas. For instance, the state has only two of the massive high-capacity snow blowers that would chew through and spit out the type of dense snow packs on our roads now, and those are generally deployed in the snow-happy counties of far Western Maryland. They were brought down to the lowlands for the past week's snowfall, but they were far to few to deal with the massive challenges the state faced around Baltimore and Washington.

Naturally those vehicles are fiendishly expensive and have limited uses when the snow isn't falling. Yes, I know Maryland's transportation budget is strained, but let's buy the SHA as many as it wants. As I see it, that would be a virtual guarantee we'd never see another storm like this for 50 years. I don't know about you, but I could live with that.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:25 PM | | Comments (3)

O'Malley warns normality is not at hand

Gov. Martin O’Malley delivered a blunt message to Marylanders after the second blizzard within five days dumped more than 20 more inches of snow on parts of the Baltimore region: Don’t expect a return to normal any time soon. 

 that have been besieged by complaints about unplowed or partially cleared streets. Though neighborhood streets are not a state responsibility, at one point he seemed to speak directly to those who have been griping about their local leaders.

 “Stop already with the ‘scrape my street down to the pavement.’ That cannot happen for the next 72 hours,” he said.

The storm that started Tuesday evening and lingered into last night vaulted the winter of 2009-2010 into the record books as the snowiest on record in Maryland – with more that 6 feet having fallen and a month to go before spring arrives.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:08 PM |

Pedestrians: give plows wide berth

This was just sent out by the State Highway Administration:

 State Highway Administration (SHA) crews continue to plow state highways today in blizzard conditions. Concerned about severely reduced visibility, SHA drivers have radioed in about safety of pedestrians walking in roadways since sidewalks aren’t cleared.

“Under the best of conditions, large plow trucks require a wide berth and significant stopping distance,” said SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen. “With the fog, snow and wind, combined with snowy and icy pavements, our drivers may not be able to see and react to avoid pedestrians walking on roadways. If your vehicle becomes disabled, pull as far off the road as possible and call for help – but please do not get out and walk in the roadway.”

 Additional Updates: SHA temporarily has southbound I-95 at MD 198 in Prince George’s County closed due to a multi-vehicle crash. Southbound motorists are detoured at MD 32 west to US 29 to travel south to the Capital Beltway (I-495).

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:35 PM |

Here's who to call if your street isn't plowed

The State Highway Administration reports that it's getting flooded with calls from people reporting that their neighborhood streets haven't been plowed. While the SHA sympathizes, clearing the courts and cul-de-sacs isn't its job.

In Maryland, the SHA is responsible interstates, U.S. highways and numbered state routes, with the exception of toll facilities and parts of Interstate 95 and 395 maintained by the Maryland Transportation Authority and state routes that extend into Baltimore city, which maintains almost all the roads within its boundaries.

Roads with names rather than numbers outside Baltimore city are maintained by the counties or in some cases incorporated municipalities. For telephone numbers of county snow removal authorities, provided by the SHA, please click below.


Allegany County 301-777-5955
Anne Arundel County 410-222-4040
Baltimore City 410-396-7669
Baltimore County 410-887-3560, 410-887-5454
Calvert County 410-535-0905
Caroline County 410-479-0520
Carroll County 410-386-6717
Cecil County 410-996-6270
Charles County 301-932-3450
Dorchester County 410-228-2920
Frederick County 301-600-1555
Garrett County 301-334-3988
Harford County 410-638-3532
Howard County 410-313-7450
Kent County 410-778-4252
Montgomery County 240-777-6000
Prince George’s County 301-499-8600
Queen Anne’s County 410-758-0920
St. Mary’s County 301-863-8400
Somerset County 410-651-1930
Talbot County 410-770-8150
Washington County 240-313-2720
Wicomico County 410-548-4874
Worcester County 410-632-2244

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:36 PM | | Comments (3)

Pa. reopens Interstate 81

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has reopened Interstate 81, a source at the Maryland State Highway Administration reports.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:34 PM |

Readers can get Twitter notices

Readers who would like to know when a Getting There posting goes up can sign up for instant notices by following michaeltdresser on Twitter. We'll be posting up-the-hour news on the storm situation.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:20 PM |

Pa. reopens I-83 but urges staying off it

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has reopened Interstate 83 but urges motorists to continue staying away from it. No word on a reopening of Interstate 81, so Maryland troopers may still be turning away traffic at the state line near Hagerstown. Both had been closed becauise of blizzard conditions.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:54 PM |

Transportation chief 'pleased' with roads

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley sys she's "very surprised and pleased" with the condition of the state's major roads this afternoon, adding that the lack of traffic getting in the way of snow plows "has been a key factor" in clearing highways.

"People seem to be getting the message," she said.

But Swaim-Staley echoed Gov. Martin O'Malley's earlier effort to manage expectations on behalf of the local governments that are responsible for clearing most secondary roads and neighborhood streets.

"It's going to be several days to get in there and get this snow removed," she said. "This is two historic storms back to back." In some parts of the state, she noted, the snowfall has measured  a combined 50 inches from the two storms.

It's going to be a long time digging out from this one," Swaim-Staley said.


In a briefing for The Sun about 2:30 p.m. Swaim-Staley also gave the following updates:

--One runway at BWI Marshall Airport has been cleared and is open,  though earlier in the day there was a brief period when visibility was so poor that plowing was stopped. Already, one cargo plane has flown out, though no commercial passenger flights are expected today. As they did with last week's storm, airlines for the most part got their planes out of town before the latest storm hit, so arrivals must resume before flights can depart. Whether they resume tomorrow will be up to the individual airlines.

--Drivers who try to resume normal highway speeds so so at their own peril. "We just need to continue emphasizing you could hit a pathc," she said, noting that when temperatures drop tonight the roads could freeze.

--Most transit systems remain shut down. There is no indication when service can be resumed, though the Maryland Transit is continuing to run 'snow trains' on light rail and aboveground Metro to keep snow from building up on the tracks.

--The problem with salt supplies reported earlier was that there was confusion about whether shipments would still be coming from the port, where there is an ample supply at the Rokert terminal in Southeast Baltimore. Swaim-Staley said there was concern the companies that supply the salt would shut down because they had no trucks to haul salt. She said that after Gov. Martin O'Malley intervened it was agreed that the state and local governments could pick up shipments with their own trucks.

--Many highway workers for state and local governments has been working around the clock since last Thursday, occasionally taking an eight-hour break to check on their families and shovel out their own homes. "Many of the drivers, they bed down for the night at their shops," she said.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:43 PM |

Conditions appear to worsen on I-95

It's 2:15 p.m., and in just the half-hour or so since the last item was popsted, conditions on the I-95 appear to have deteriorated. The wind has picked up, and a stretch of I-95 near Route 100 where two lanes of pavement were visible from a state road camera then looks much whiter now,

I-95 is still a very dangerous place and well worth avoiding.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:15 PM |

Traffic light (and too fast) on I-95

With the snow appearing to slack off a little near BWI, traffic on Interstate 95 remains unusually light between Baltimore and Washington though it is picking up from this morning.

 Many of those who are out on the Interstate near Route 100 in Columbia seem to be in an unseemly hurry to return to normal highway speeds, There are still only two lanes in each direction that are clear to bare pavement, and there are gusting winds blowing snow over the travel lanes.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:36 PM | | Comments (1)

Pennsylvania closes Interstates 81, 83

Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman Jack Cahalan said hard-hit Pennsylvania has closed at least parts of Insterstates 81 and 83 because of blizzard conditions.

Where Central Maryland was at the epicenter of the weekend's snowstorm, Pennsylvania seems to be bearing the brunt of this one. Maryland's highest snow totals today are being seen in the counties closest to Pennsylvania. It would certainly be prudent to check on road conditions before venturing into the Keystone State.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:28 PM |
Categories: On the roads

Still no fatalities on MD roads since storms' start

Gov. Martin O'Malley reported what might be the most remarkable of the many numbers to emerge from the twin snowstorms that have blanked Maryland: Zero.

That's the number of fatalities on Maryland roads since the first snowstorm began last Friday. It's particularly noteworthy when you figure that Maryland routinely totals more than 600 road deaths in any given year (the number has dipped under 600 since the recession cut into driving).

That means the average week brings 10-12 traffic deaths in the state. So if you figure wev'e gone 5-6 days without a fatality, eight or nine people are here who wouldn't be if the weather had been better.

State officials say the poor road conditions have apparently persuaded motorists to lower their speeds and drive carefully. Maybe we should have blizzards more often.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:04 PM |
Categories: On the roads

Governor seeks to tamp down expectations

Gov. Martin O'Malley sought to lessen the expectations of Maryland residents who may be expecting to see the blacktop on their neghborhood streets anytime soon, saying government efforts are concentrated on keeping a single lane open to deal with emergencies.

 O'Malley said during a news briefing at the state's emergency response center in Reisterstown that in many cases highway crews face a losing battle in efforts to plow the streets. He said that in some places crews will be attempting to tamp down the snow to ensure roads are passable rather than trying to scrape away at the compacted snow pack that's already in place.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:53 PM |

Double whammy to be counted as single hit

Gov. Martin O'Malley says the federal government has agreed to consider lqast weekend's snowstorm and last night and today's powerful blizzard as a single event for the purposes of applying for federal disaster relief.

O'Malley said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski put him in touch with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who agreed to the request.

 Officials said the combination of the two storms into a single event increases the chances of federal approval of the state's application for federal relief. The twin storms, along with another 20-inch-plus snowfall in December, have stretched the state's budget for winter road clearance to the breaking point.

 O'Malley said the federal disaster assistance is "definitely a secondary consideration" to the immediate emergency response, but still welcomed the federal decision. The state plans to submit its application for federal aid in about 30 days. If it is approved the state and local governments could be reimbursed for 75 percent of the cost of the emergency response.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:37 PM |

Beltway has reopened

The Baltimore Beltway, which had been closed at Eastern Avenue because of downed power lines, is now open, state officials say.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:02 PM |

State keeps roads open despite bad conditions

Though some localities, including Baltimore city and Harford County, have closed the roads under their control to non-emergency vehicles, Maryland has not done the same with state roads.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley explained that the state has hesitated to close roads entirely because of the state's location on major interstate commerce routes and the difficulty of enforcing such a ban.

"We would have horrendous issues on our borders if we were trying to close down our roads. Obviously, we don't want people on them," she said.

Swaim-Staley said the state and local govenments don't have the law enforcement resources to pull over vehicles to enforce such an order.

Even without the order, traffic remains light on Interstate 95 and other roads around the state.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:49 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

Salt running low in places but plenty at port

Salt supplies are running low at some of the salt domes throughout Maryland, state Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said in a briefing here at the State Highway Administration operations center in Hanover. But the secretary said the state has a good supply at the port of Baltimore if state and local salt trucks can reach the terminal.

Swaim-Staley said Gov. Martin O'Malley had called the president of the company that supplies salt for state and local road operations in Maryland and received an assurance that loading operations will continue.

"The issue has been getting the trucks to get the salt from the terminal to the salt domes," Swaim-Staley said. The problem, she said, is that the trucks used to pick up the salt are the same ones used in road-clearing operations. She said the state is working with local governments to address the issue.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:35 AM |

MTA suspends light rail service

The Maryland Transit Adminsistration has suspended light rail service because of blizzard conditions. Local bus service and aboveground Metro service were suspended earlier this morning. Mobility van and cab service has been suspended as well.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:26 AM | | Comments (1)

Harford County closes roads

Harford County has closed local roads to traffic, according to Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley. She said Frederick County has joined Montgomery in suspending plowing.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:20 AM |
Categories: On the roads

City orders private vehicles off roads

Baltimore has gone to Phase 3 of its snow emergency plan, ordering all non-emergency vehicles off the roads.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:05 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

Maryland motorists urged not to drive

The State Highway Administration has issued a warning urging Maryland motorists not to drive because of rapidly deteriorating conditions on the state's roads. Winds are gusting up to 50 mph as snow continues to fall.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:46 AM |
Categories: On the roads

MTA suspends bus service, aboveground Metro

This just in from the Maryland Transit Administration:

MTA Local Bus Service will be suspended at 11:00 am today due to deteriorating weather conditions. MTA Metro Subway has immediately suspended service at all above ground stations.

Metro service will continue to Operate from Mondawmin Station to Johns Hopkins Stations. Customers are advised that there will not be any connecting Local Bus service. MTA Light Rail service continues to operate between Hunt Valley and BWI. Customers are advised that there are significant delays and that there will not be any connecting bus service. MTA Mobility will continue to offer emergency dialysis transport. Customers are advised that due to deteriorating weather conditions, service may be scaled back significantly.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:26 AM |

Montgomery, D.C. suspend plowing

Montgomery County and the District of Columbia have suspended plowing operations because of poor visibility, according to Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman Valerie Burnette Edgar.

SHA drivers haven't suspended operations but plow drivers haved been instructed to pull over if they can't see the road ahead, she said. Folks, this is worse than last Saturday's storm.

 I just got a report from Halethorpe of snow mixed with sleet, with gusting winds. Visibility is near zero in many places. Do stay home. Conditions are much worse than they were at 7:30 a.m. and they were bad then.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:07 AM |
Categories: On the roads

Beltway closed at Eastern Avenue

The Baltimore Beltway was closed at Eastern Avenue in both directions just before 10 a.m. after power lines weighted down by heavy snow fell across the roadway.

 Judging by a similar incident this weekend on U.S. 301, this problem could take hours to resolve. If you must venture out on the roads -- and conditions are bad enough you should reconsider your definition of "must" -- stay away from the east side of the Beltway all afternoon or until you hear it's been cleared.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:55 AM |
Categories: On the roads

Truckers may be heeding call to avoid roads

There seem to be noticeably fewer trucks on the highways today than there were during the height of Saturday's snowfall -- particularly on Interstate 95.

Maybe it's the high winds today. Maybe it's the tale of Saturday's horrendous I-95 backup making the rounds. Maybe it's the effort by the Maryland Department of Transportation to persuade truckers to stay off the roads. MDOT spokesman Jack Cahaland said state officials put out the word yesterday through the

Maryland Motor Carrier Association that they'd like to see truckers heeding the same warnings as other drivers to stay off the roads. The visual evidence is that something's working. But the same cameras show conditions deteriorating badly.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:37 AM |
Categories: On the roads

Marylanders seem to be staying put

The cameras here at the State Highway Administration are showing admirable restraint on the part of Marylanders when it comes to getting out on the highways.

 Juding by the views transmitted here, folks are staying off the road in droves. Traffic appears light in most views. (The scene of I-95 near 100 just had several seconds with no vehicles in the frame in either direction. There! Just happened again.)

The conditions out there are nasty, with the snow still falling, impaired visibility and high winds.Jack Cahalan, Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman, said there has been a spike in the number of crashes in the last hour among those who have ventured out.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:14 AM |

Apologies in advance to readers

You might notice today that the Getting There blog might be occasionally lapsing into typographical errors. It's not that the blogger can't spell, but typing skills are limited and today the emphasis will be on timeliness more than perfection.

These reports are coming to you without the benefit of editing. My apologies.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:10 AM |

MTA shutting down some services

With conditions deteriorating rapidly, the Maryland Transit Admininistration is shutting down some of the services it has intended to keep running today.

Deputy state Transportation Harold Bartlett says the MTA is phasing out the bus routes it put out on the streets this morning. He said the MTA will try to pick up passengers who are already waiting at stops.

 Bartlett said the Metro is running now but that the MTA is likely to soon have to discontinue service on the aboveground part of the line north and west of Mondawmin station. The underground part of the line from Mondawmin to Johns Hopkins Hospital will remain in service, as it has through the twin storms. The issue here is the difficulty in maintaining contact with the third rail that powers the trains.

Light rail service will continue for now. Bartlett said the light rail is powered by an overhead caternary that isn't as affected by the snow. As long as the snow doesn't fall too fast, the movement of the trains themselves can keep the tracks clear, he said.

MARC and commuter bus service have been canceled.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:42 AM |

MARC train service canceled

MARC train service has been canceled on all lines this morning. No trains will run on the Penn, Brunswick or Camden lines. A decision has not yet been made about Thursday service.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:27 AM |
Categories: MARC train

What a great morning to go back to bed!

It was a short trip from the hotel where I holed up last night to the State Highway Administration operations center near BWI in Hanover, but it was enough to convince me that nobody who can stay home should even think of going out on the roads.

 Visibility is miserable. As I look at the video screens at the center showing the views of highways around the state, many of them show a total whiteout. That's pretty much what I saw this morning during the slow trek down Route 170 this morning.

Traffic is light in most places and seems to be moving -- albeit slowly. I found 20 mph to be about the maximum safe speed on partly plowed roads. The snow is definitely sticking, so whaqt's plowed isn't necessarily staying plowed.

I've been told that no flights are going into or out of the airport. The BWI hotel where I stayed canceled its shuttle bus to the airport.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:08 AM |
Categories: On the roads

February 9, 2010

Mechanic says snow helps pay tuition

When Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake visited the visited the East Baltimore shop that repairs the city's snow trucks Tuesday, one of the people she thanked was mechanic Roy Darden.

Darden, a 15 year veteran of the Department of General Services repair shop, said he'd been working 20 -hour days since  the snow began falling late last week.  On one of his few breaks, he said, he went home to Pasadena and spent four hours shoveling out.

In his somewhat biased view, Baltimore is doing a better job of clearing the roads than his home jurisdiction.

"They need a little  city in Anne Arundel County," he said.

Darden said the city's snow trucks and plows are have taken a real beating the last week. But that isn't breaking his heart.

"If they don't fall apart, I don't have a job," he said. "That's the way I send my boys to school."

Can't beat that logic.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:08 PM |
Categories: On the roads

Greyhound service diverted after roof collapse

This just in from Greyhound, which has continued to operate during the storm despite poor conditions:

Earlier today, a large exterior awning outside the Greyhound terminal at 2110 Haines Street collapsed under the weight of snow. There were no injuries or damages. Effective immediately, all Greyhound service has been rerouted to the Baltimore Travel Plaza, 5625 O’Donnell Street. There will be no service in or out of the terminal on Haines Street for at least the next 48 - 72 hours.

We do advise passengers to check our web site,, or call 1-800-231-2222 to confirm their schedules in the event of additional inclement weather. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:23 PM |

Baltimore Countians urged to free up the streets


Here's the latest from Baltimore County:

Baltimore County Emergency Management Update Residents Asked To Move Cars From the Street Emergency managers are asking residents to move vehicles from the street, if possible, so that plows can get through once today's winter storm begins. See the "Emergency Operations Alert" at

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:15 PM |
Categories: On the roads

City to downtown workers: Get outa here already!

The Baltimore Department of Transportation is urging downtown workers to leave their job sites early and get on the road before the coming double-whammy snowstorm begins in earnest so city woekers can continue their snow removal operation.

The city is expecting 10-12 inches between now and tomorrow morning. The Downtown Partnership points out that city's snow emergtency remains in effect. That means all vehicles traveling on city roadways must be equipped with snow tires, all season radials or chains.

Parking along designated Snow Emergency Route is prohibited and the Baltimore police say they will be towing without mercy.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:29 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

February 8, 2010

MTA sets Tuesday service plan

Here's the latest from the Maryland Transit Administration. Under these circumstances, I'll pass them along without comment.


Baltimore, MD (February 8, 2010) – The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is asking 

customers for patience as the agency works to provide safe public transit services during the 

season‟s heaviest snowfall. Continuous efforts to keep surfaces clear of snow and ice as well as 

the removal of fallen tree branches on train tracks are labor intensive and require tremendous 

resources.  The following transportation service will be available on Tuesday, February 9, 2010:  


 Limited service will be provided on the following Local Bus lines: #3, #5, #8, #10, #13, 

#14, #15, #17, #19, #23, #35, #36, #40, #44, #52, #54, and #59.  All other lines will not operate.  

Customers are advised to call the Transit Information Center at 410-539-5000 to confirm the 

status of their bus.  



 Metro Subway will operate every 15 to 20 minutes between Owings Mills and Johns 

Hopkins Hospital due to single track operation in some areas.  Parking lots have been cleared, 

but many spaces remained blocked by snow. 



Light Rail will operate as follows: 

Between Hunt Valley and North Avenue, trains will operate every 30 minutes.  Riders 

continuing south of North Avenue must transfer at North Avenue. 


Between North Avenue and Camden Yards, trains will operate every 40 minutes.  Riders 

continuing north or south must transfer at North Avenue or Camden Station. 


Between Cromwell Station/Glen Burnie and Camden Yards, trains will operate every 20 

minutes.  Between BWI Marshall Airport and Camden Yards, trains will operate every 20 

minutes.  The combined frequency between Linthicum and Camden Yards is 10 minutes. 


There will no service to Penn Station.  The closest open Light Rail station is University of 

Baltimore/Mt. Royal. 


All stations are open, but parking lots, sidewalks, stairs, ramps and platforms may be slippery or 

partially blocked by snow. 


MARC will be running an S schedule on the Penn, Camden and Brunswick lines.   


Commuter Bus Routes 410, 411, and 420 will operate REGULAR service. Midday trip „A‟ on 

Route 420 will also run.  


Routes 310, 320, 915, 929, and 995 are all CANCELED for Tuesday. Park & Ride lots have not 

been cleared.  


All other Commuter Bus routes will operate on the “S” or "L/S" schedule. Only Trips with an 

“S” or “L/S” above the trip number will operate.  


*Route 991 riders-please check WMATA‟s website for information regarding 

service and the impact it may have on your commute.    


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:47 PM | | Comments (6)

BWI opens second runway; traffic resuming

This just in from the Maryland Aviation Administration:

** Both of BWI's main commercial runways are now open.

** By afternoon, airline carriers at BWI Marshall were flying near-normal schedules, with few reported cancellations.

** Southwest Airlines has announced flight cancellations for Tuesday and Wednesday at BWI, Dulles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and other markets. For details, see--

** To prepare for the next expected storm, snow-removal crews, both Airport employees and contractors, will be activated on Tuesday. The snow teams will work to remove snow and ice from Airport runways, taxiways, and ramp areas, as well as public roadways, parking lots, and sidewalks.

** With a potentially significant snowfall expected, BWI Marshall Airport customers may want to consider parking under cover in one of the Airport’s parking garages.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:20 PM | | Comments (1)

No fatalities reported on MD roads this weekend

In what might be the most amazing development of the snowy weekend, nobody died on the state's roads, according to Maryland Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen.

The typical weekend on Maryland's roads yield several deaths, but the massive snowstorm that buried the region apparently motivated motorists to drive especially carefully.

 "Drivers have been patient. They have been careful," said state Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley.

 Whether Maryland drivers can keep up that streak for long is questionable. Driving speeds on the state's highways were up markedly today as some motorists mistook improved conditions for normal.




Pedersen noted that the roads remain extremely dangerous. In many places, dry pavement is interspersed with wet spots or patches of hard-packed snow. As temperatures drop below 25 degrees tonight, he warned, deadly black ice will form on road surfaces.

The highway chief also noted that interchanges and ramps are still danger spots. In many cases, lanes can end abruptly in a bank of snow.

High mounds of snow -- 6-8 feet deep in some cases -- impede visibility. Motorists on main streets need to approach each side street or driveway with a snowpile blocking the view as if another driver is about to lurch out.

"I ask that drivers be very careful -- that they not drive too fast for conditions," Pedersen said.

Conditions are also treacherous for pedestrians walking along roads where the sidewalks are buried under feet of snow. It would be prudent of them to face the flow of traffic, while drivers need to slow down while passing them.

My observation from driving the roads of northern Anne Arundel County and Howard County today is that anyone driving the speed limit is going too fast for the conditions out there. It's unlikely to be much improved Tuesday before the next snowstorm rolls in. When that snow falls, it's likely the hard-packed snow from the weekend's storm will still be under it.













Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:49 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

Inner Loop closing canceled

This just in from the Maryland Transportation Authority:

Tonight’s closure of the Inner Loop I-695 between Quarantine Road (Exit 1) and MD 10 (Exit 2) for barrier wall removal has been canceled due to the recent winter storm. The opening of the left lane of the Inner Loop may be postponed until after Thursday as originally scheduled, pending weather conditions. Updates will be provided as they become available.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:42 PM |

February 7, 2010

How do you tell if you're driving well in snow?

Question: So how do you tell whether you're driving at a reasonable speed on ice and snow in Maryland?

Answer: Look in your rear view mirror. If somebody is tailgating you and blowing his or her horn, you are.





Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:47 PM | | Comments (2)

BWI flights resume with flight from London

Here's the latest from BWI. The fact the airport opened for arrivals is not a surprise. The reference to departure is -- because there were almost no planes in the airport when the airport opened its runways at about 5 p.m. Here's the 7:30 p.m. release:

BWI Runway Opened at 5:00 PM;

British Airways with First Arrival

Airport Expects Only Limited Flight Operations Tonight

Passengers should contact airlines to confirm ticketing and flights status before coming to Airport BWI

Thurgood Marshall Airport reopened one major runway, Runway 10-28, at about 5:00 PM Sunday for flight operations. The Airport expects only limited commercial flight operations from airlines Sunday evening. The airlines will slowly resume flight operations.

The first arrival Sunday at BWI Marshall was the daily British Airways flight from London Heathrow, which arrived shortly after the Airport’s runway was opened. Several subsequent flights have since arrived and departed at BWI Marshall Airport.

Customers should continue to check with their airlines for current, updated flight information. Those travelers impacted by flight cancellations this weekend are encouraged to re-book flights by telephone or airline website before heading to the Airport.

The airlines will have to position aircraft and flight crews before all flights will resume. BWI Marshall Airport employees and contractors will continue working to clear the Airport’s two other major runways, as well as taxiways and other aircraft movement areas.

With the possibility for further winter weather later this week, those travelers planning to fly in coming days should consider parking under cover in one of BWI Marshall Airport’s two garages.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Air travel

Transit services coming up slowly (updated)

Mass transit service in Maryland is making a slow recovery from the weekend's snowstorm. with light rail offering service to a limited number of stations this afteroon and about 20 percent of  local buses operating on primary routes only.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said Baltimore's Metro is continuing to run on the underground part between Mondawmin Mall and Johns Hopkins Hospital -- as it did Saturday -- but she said the aboveground stretch to Owings Mills would be closed all day and into tomorrow. She said a bus shuttle may be in place between Mondawmin and Owings Mills until above-ground service can resume.

Swaim-Staley said the Washington Metro is continuing to operate underground and is working to bring back service on the above-ground rails. Washington Metrobuses were not running Sunday.

Officials were awaiting a decision from the federal government on whether most of its workers will be required to report Monday. But Swaim-Staley said she expects MARC commuter trains to be operating on a holiday schedule, though some of the parking lots may have limited parking because snow hasn't been cleared.

Ahe advised MARC riders to check the Maryland Transit Administration web site,, before leaving for a station tomorrow. Riders of other services can find information there as well.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:14 PM | | Comments (4)

Drivers getting back to normal -- too fast (updated)

Maryland drivers who holed up Saturday started venturing out in greater numbers Sunday -- and the state's highway chief said many were going too fast for condition, leading to spin-outs, stuck vehicles and more traffic obstructions on recently cleared roads.

Traffic appeared to be moving briskly on most of the state's major roads at midday as snow plows were able to clear multiple lanes on interstates. An exception was snake-bitten Interstate 95 near Route 175 -- the scene of a massive hours-long backup Saturday -- where traffic was crawling after two tractor-trailers jack-knifed in successsion. As of nearly 1:45 p.m., traffic was inching along the stretch of I-95 south of Route 100.

At noon, a large snow plow train -- following front-end loaders -- worked to scrape away the layer of compacted snow that settled on I-95 near Rouite 100  when Saturday's nine-hour backup block snow-clearing. Traffic was backed up behind the plows as they worked to clear that 6-mile stretch leading to Route 175. Motorists are being  advised to use parallel routes such as Maryland 295, U.S. 29 or U.S. 1 but many were choosing to stay on the interstate. Where on Saturday interstate traffic was mostly made up of trucks, passenger cars appeared to make up roughly three-quarters of the traffic flow Sunday.

Another problem developed about 11:30 a.m. when power lines fell across both lanes of U.S. 301 between Bowie and Upper Marlboro on the main route to Southern Maryland. Traffic was backed up in both direction and was still halted as of 1:45 p.m. SHA spokesman Dave Buck said Pepco was on the scene near Trade Zone Road  and was working to clear the highway but he had no estimate how soon that would happen.


In a noon briefing, Gov. Martin O'Malley warned that road conditions remain dangerous despite progress in clearing the snow.

"While much of major highways are cleared, there still are many spots where it has not been totally cleared," he said. Secondary roads for for the most part still impassable, he said.

State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said there have been many spin-out crashes around the state as drivers try to resume normal speeds before the roads are ready. In many case, those vehicles are getting stuck, backing up traffic behind them.

"The vast majority of those cases involve vehicles that were driven too fast for conditions," Pedersen. Under current conditions, he said, driving the speed limit is driving far too fast, noting that limits are set for fair-weather conditions.

Ramps pose a particular danger because most have large quantities of snow piled up alongside the, Pedersen said. He added that in most cases, acceleration and deceleration lanes are not open, making it difficult to merge with the flow of highway-speed traffic.

Many of the piles of snow by state roadways, Pedersen said, are 6 to 8 feet high -- too massive to be cleared by snow plows. He said they can't be removed until crews can bring in front-end loaders that are in limited supply.

Pedersen said the day's problems will get worse this evening as temperatures fall into the teens and even single-digits in parts of the state. He warned that will lead to the formation of treacherous "black ice."

The highway chief urged Marylanders to watch the Super Bowl at home tonight rather than risk being on the road after the game.

Motorists who do become stuck on highways are being urged not to abandon their vehicles. Maryland State Police Superintendent said vehicles abandoned in the roadway will be towed away. He urged drivers who leave their cars only to find them gone when they return to contact the nearest state police barracks for help in locating their vehicles.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:52 AM |

A lonely few passengers haunt BWI (updated)

Sun photo/Michael Dresser

The Southwest terminal at BWI Marshall  lies nearly deserted at about 9 a.m. Sunday morning.

Pia Hernandez said she checked her airline's web site and saw that her flight was "on time" before she set out for Baltimore Washington International Airport Sunday morning. It wasn't until she arrived at BWI that she learned no flights were going in or out of the snow-buried airport.

So the Killeen, Texas, resident applied her self to the unpleasant task of calling her boss to say the almost certainly won't be at work Monday morning.

Hernandez was one of a lonely few passengers to be seen Sunday morning at BWI, where the normally bustling Southwest terminal was all but deserted at 9 a.m.  The airport was open as it entered its second full day without commecial flights. State officials said the brunways would reopen at 5 p.m. Sunday and that a few flights might varrive Sunday night. However, departing flights are still not expected to resume until midday Monday, although a few passengers expressed hope they could catch a flight out Sunday night as some airlines held open a slim possibility that service might resume.

Sun photo/Michael Dresser

Pia Hernandez of Killeen, Texas, phones her employer from BWI to say she probably won't be at work Monday morning because no flights were leaving the airport Sunday.



That Sun photo/Michael Dresser

Flight board at Southwest terminal at BWI tells the story Sunday morning.

That hope is likely to be in vain, however, because there were almost not jets at BWI. All but one airliner departed Friday to avoid being covered in snow. Departures won't be able to depart until arrivals arrive.

Airport work crews labored through the day Sunday to clear some 26-28 inches of snow from the runways, taxiways and gate areas. A smattering of airport workers were on duty, including ticket agents and a few Transportation Security Administration officers staffing unused security checkpoints, but a Maryland Transportation Authority police officer said the scene reminded him of Sept. 12, 2001, when no planes were flying in the aftermath of 9/11.

One of the passengers hoping Sunday morning  to get out before Monday was Karl Utz of San Francisco, who has b een stuck at the airport since Friday -- having missed a flight to Chicago because of heavy traffic.

Utz, a Department of Homeland Security employee, said he was able to stretch out and get some sleep on the BWI observation deck and found food at a Subway franchise that remained open.

"I'm not in a hurry so it's not a problem for me. I'm just bored," he said. With TVs turned off,  he's had little to do but walk around the empty terminals.

 "I think I know every inch of this airport," he said.  "I was in the military 22 years, so you learn to adapt."

If he couldn't get a flight out Sunday night, Utz said, he'd be ready to spring for a hotel room.

Paul J. Wiedefeld, Executive Director of the Maryland Aviation Administration, said in a press release that "we must provide a safe operation for airlines and travelers before normal flights can resume.”

BWI officials reported that Southwest Airlines, the largest airline at BWI, cancelled all flights today there and at   Dulles International, Philadelphia International, and Pittsburgh International airports.  The flight board at BWI showed all flights canceled.

Travelers affected by flight cancellations were being encouraged to rebook travel arrangements by telephone or airline websites rather than by going to BWI. With the possibility of an additional 6-12 inches later in the week, officials were urging travelers headed to the airport in coming days to park under cover in one of BWI's two garages -- even if it costs them a few dollars more.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:29 AM |

February 6, 2010

Wrapping up the storm news

14th and hopefully final update today from the SHA Operations Center in Hanover:

Most major state highways seem to be moving well as we approach 9 p m. and Getting There is thinking of getting out.

There seems to be some unpleasantness along Maryland 295 near Route 175, and there's still that diversion around a stretch of Interstate 95 southbound between Interstate 195 and Route 100, but overall traffic is moving slowly -- but moving as the temperatures drop into the ice danger zone.

Few remain here at the operations center that has been the heart of the state's snow response. Still in the building are Gov. Martin O'Malley, Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley, Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen and National Guaqrd Lt. Col. Charles Kohler. There's a few transportation and highway spokespeople, some highway operations folks and a couple state troopers along with a handful of fading newscreatures.

We'll do it again tomorrow as O'Malley holds a news briefing at noon to bring us all the news from overnight and the outlook for Monday.

Stay safe. Stay happy. And most of all stay home.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:44 PM |

SHA shuts down stretch of I-95 to clear it

13th update of the day from the SHA Operations Center in Hanover:

State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said his agency has shut down southbound Interstate 95 and Route 100 to new traffic in order to tow away an abandoned tractor-trailer and to clear snow that accumulated during a roughly 9-hour backup that occurred Saturday morning and afternoon.

Pedersen said that once the obstructions near Route 175 that caused the backup were cleared, highway workers found they had a problem with truck drivers who had fallen asleep at the wheel of their vehicles during the long standstill. Officials had to go from truck to truck waking drivers to get traffic moving, he said. One tractor-trailer was found to have been abandoned, he said, requiring that it be towed off the highway. (I'd hate to be that driver trying to explain what happened to the boss.) The state is now trying to get a heavy-duty towtruck into position to remove the tractor-trailer, Pedersen said.

During the long backup, a great deal of snow accumulated on the affected stretch of highway because plows couldn't get through. Pedersen said the SHA diverted new southbound I-95 traffic onto Interstate 195 and urged drivers to us U.S. 1 as an alternate route. Some took that suggestion, but others chose to use Maryland Route 295, he said.

Pedersen said that stretch of I-95 will reopen once the truck is gone and a snow plow train can get through, but he did not estimate how long that would take. He said the tail end of the backup had advanced about a mile since traffic flow was restored and is now over the Patapsco River.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:39 PM |

Elkridge takes the prize

12th udpate today from the SHA Operations Center in Hanover:

Communities all over the state were buried in snow Friday and Saturday but it is Elkridge that wins the bragging rights for the highest snow total for the 2010 Super Bowl of Snow in the Mid-Atlantic states.

Elkridge's snowfall was measured by the National Weather Service at 38.3 inches -- which may account for why a massive backup on Interstate 95 picked Howard County as the place to start. That even beats the 36 inches in Frostburg out in Allegany County.

A close runner-up in the in-95 corridor was Columbia, with 33.8 inches. Savage and Ellicott City also clocked more than 30 inches, as did several locations in Montgomery County.Crofton measured 34 inches. and Randallstown 32. Essex came in at 30.4.

If you're wondering who passed along these stats, it was Gov. Martin O'Malley -- after I asked him about the Virginia Department of Transportation's relative success in keeping I-95 clear. It trurns out Virginia's snow totals along I-95 were mostly in the teens -- for instance 13 in Fredericksburg and 19 in Alexandria.

OK, Governor, you made your point.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:30 PM |

Trucker calls I-95 jam his worst ever

11th update today from the SHA Operations Center in Hanover:

Thanks to my colleague Andrea Walker for this account from one of those stuck in the afternoon-long standstill on Interstate 95 southbound starting near Route 175 and stretching back 6 miles:

Bob Harsche, who was headed to Virginia from Philadelphia with a truckload of Wonder Bread, said it was the worst traffic jam he’s ever encountered since he started driving rigs 38 years ago.

Harsche, 58, got stuck in the backup about eight miles south of Baltimore at about noon and by 6 p.m. had moved ½ mile. He passed the time by reading a spy novel, listening to the radio and even taking a nap. “I think other drivers were jealous of me after seeing my pillow against the window,” Harsche said.

He said other people passed the time by walking around the highway.

Harsche was supposed to have the day off Saturday, but volunteered to work. “See what happens when you volunteer,” Harsche said. “It’s a mess out here.”

The good news is that the logjam has been cleared and traffic appears to be moving steadily -- though slowly -- on I-95 and on other major state roads.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:21 PM |

You think Saturday was bad? Just you wait

Tenth update today from the SHA operations center in Hanover:

Sunday, bloody Sunday, is on its way. Think of it as Saturday on the rocks.

 To the delightful mix of freezing rain, sleet and 28-plus inches of snow we've seen in the last 36 hours we should soon be adding a measure of ice as the snow melted by salt treatments freezes in sub-25 temperatures.

In interviews here, Gov. Martin O'Malley warned that conditions on the roads could be more treacherous Sunday and Monday than they were Saturday. The governor said he won't announce until Sunday whether non-essential state employees will have the day off Monday, but the betting here is that they won't be working. Stay tuned.

 Another big decision being watched by transportation planners is the federal government's call on whether its offices will shut down Monday. That decision will determine whether MARC trains and MTA commuter buses run.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:56 PM |

Interstate 95 logjam broken

Ninth update today from the SHA Operations Center in Hanover:

John Martin, who was traveling south on Interstate 95 from Massacusetts to Miami, reports he just got moving at 6:20 p.m. after having been stuck just north of Route 100 in Howard County since about 12:30 p.m.

Martin was part of the traffic jam from hell on southbound I-95 that developed after a series of traffic mishaps beginning about 9 a.m.

"It's a miserable experience. We're freezing," he said just before traffic got moving. The front of the queue, which was backed up behind a jack-knifed tractor trailer just north of Route 175, got moving about 5:30 after that vehicle and another disabled truck were extricated.

But Gov. Martin O'Malley said it would take about an hour for the string to unravel so the back of the line could start moving -- a prediction is now looking accurate.

One problem that could crop up: Martin said he and many others who were stuck are low on gas.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:13 PM |

Toll facilities are bright spot

Eighth update today from the SHA operations center in Hanover:

Ronald Freeland, executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority, said all Maryland toll facilities have continued to operate smoothly through the storm.

Freeland said all five lanes of the Bay Bridge have remained open despite some drifting snow. All of the Baltimore Harbor crossings are clear, as are the Susquehanna River bridges. and the US 301 bridge over the Potomac There are no wind restrictions on any of the toll bridges.

He  also said toll takers at the Fort McHenry have been warning travelers of the backup ahead on southbound Interstate 95.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:49 PM |

Traffic jam from hell approaches 6 1/2 hours

Seventh in a series of updates today from the State Highway Administration operations center in Hanover: The glimmer of promise that came from the sight of a single truck budging on southbound Interstate 95 has turned out to be an illusion.

 According to the video at the operations, traffic remains at a standstill -- as it has from about 9 a.m. -- from Route 175 all the way back to Interstate 195.

The trucks in the state's video frame at Route 100 are the same that were there this morning. An earlier blog entry describes what happened this morning to cause this traffic jam from hell.

 Those who are stuck in their homes can take comfort in the fact they're not stuck in a car or truck on I-95 with no bathroom facilities, no food and fuel running out.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:24 PM |

Traffic budges on I-95 -- is there hope?

Sixth in a series of updates today from the State Highway Administration operations center in Hanover:

Sun photo/Michael Dresser

Maryland Department of Transportation chief of staff Leif Dormsjo watches video monitor showing backup on Interstate 95 about five and a half hours after it started.

One of the trucks that's been stuck on southbound Interstate 95 at Route 100 just budged. That's a big deal when traffic has been frozen in place for five hours.

 The backup extends all the way from Route 175 to near Intertstate 195, but police have begun turning traffic around there and letting cars go north on one of the southbound lanes of 95. Could this be the answer that finally delivers those poor folks to a warm rest room?

Details of the saga can be found in previous blog entries.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:11 PM |

The view from SHA operations center

Fifth in a series of updates today from the State Highway Administration operations center in Hanover:

There is a recurring amazing sight here at the operations center just a few minutes ago. One of the SHA video cameras is trained on Interstate 395 where it merges into southbound Interstate 95. At various times, as I glance at the screen over my shoulder, there is not a single moving vehicle in sight on that entire stretch of highway. It's eerie, in science fiction sort of way.

Just as the fantasies of the end of the world start welling up, a few lonesome vehicles roll into the picture as a reminder that I-95 is still open. You can see the pavement on what looks to be two lanes northbound and southbound. But the I-395 ramp hasn't been plowed in a while.

One reason for the extra-light traffic on 95 is that not too far south of there, traffic is still backed up from Route 175 to north of 100. I can tell you that right now, 2 p.m., because another video camera is trained on I-95 at 100. That picture hasn't changed since about 9 a.m., and I've been assured that it is a live feed. (See previous posts for the gory details of what happened.)

Another video shot has come on the screen showing that that backup actually extends back to a point just south of Interstate 195. Oh, the humanity!

If, perchance, you are sitting in that traffic jam and want to relate your experience, email and include cell phone number.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:50 PM |

Airport closed today; prospects iffy Sunday

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport remains closed tight today -- with no flights coming in or out but one.

BWI chief executive Paul J. Wiedefeld said a twin engine Beechcraft plane landed during the peak of the snowstorm at 12:01 a.m. He said the "mini-cargo" run was delivering canceled checks for bank processing.

Wiedefeld said he did not know where the flight originated and did not identify the pilot. The airport said there were no problems with the landing.

"It was uneventful except for him. He was a little nervous," he said. The pilot broke no laws and did nothing improper, Wiedefeld said.

The airport administrator said it is up to the airlines whether scheduled flights will resume Sunday. He said the airport would have runways cleared and ready if the airlines are ready to fly.

Airport crews were spending their Saturday performing a hearculean task of plowing, melting and hauling away snow to prepare the airport reopening.

 Wiedefeld said the were helped by the fact that all but one airliner left Baltimore before commercial operations shut down Saturday -- leaving the gates and taxiways free of aircraft that would have obstructed plows.

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

Interstate 95 update: still stalled

12:55 p.m. Fourth in a series of updates today from the State Highway Administration operations center in Hanover:

 Traffic on southbound Interstate 95 is still stalled at Route 175 and backed up past Route 100 more than four hours after three tractor-trailers, 3 SUVs and 3 passenger vehicle got stuck there.

 State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said crews have been able to extricate the original vehicles that caused the backup. He said the problem is that so much snow accumulated while that operation was going on that vehicles behind them were immobilized. Some vehicles have been able to move on their own, he said, but many have to be dug out one at a time.

 "I-95 between the beltways is the most challenging sector that we have in the entire state highway system," he said.

Pedersen said the buildup of traffic has been limited because the state used electronic warning signs to divert traffic to parallel routes. He said other routes such as Maryland 295 and U.S. 1 have been able to handle the extra traffic without problems.

 The highway chief cited the backup as one more reason motorists should stay home today.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:51 PM |

Most transit service grinds to a halt

Third in a series of updates today from the State Highway Administration operations center in Hanover:

Most mass transit service has been suspended in Maryland as the Super Bowl of Snow has overwhelmed  roads and rails.

According to Maryland Transit Administrator Ralign Wells, the only service moving in Maryland is the part of Baltimore's Metro that runs underground from Mondawmin Mall to Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Local bus service was suspended after midnight b ecause many roads were impassable. Light rail and the aboveground portion of the subway did not begin service today because the "snow trains" the MTA had out at night could not clear the rails fast enough. In Washington, the Metro was also running only to underground stations, according to Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley.

Even Mobility service for the disabled has been suspended. People with medical emergencies have to rely on 911 service.

The hope for Sunday is that limited service can resume before the end of the day on the light rail, local buses and the aboveground portion of the Metro to Owings Mills, Wells said. He said bus service will operate only on primary roads and will be on a modified schedule.

Wells said the prospects for Monday look much better. He said the MTA is waiting for a determination from the federal government on whether its offices will open before deciding whether to offer MARC service Monday. If the trains do run, they will be on a limited holiday schedule, he said.





The MTA is working closely with city officials to get key turnaround points plowed, Wells said. He said one of the MTA's big problems is that many of its buses are buried in snow.

Wells said the MTA's call center is open through the weekend. He said employees, including call center operators, mechanics and operators, have been brought in by four-wheel drive vehicles from as far away as Pennsylvania.

The administrator paid tribute to the efforts of MTA workers, noting that they were working across union jurisdictional lines to perform necessary tasks.

"I'm so proud of our staff," he said. "MTA -- they're soldiers."



Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:59 AM |

Interstate 95 southbound is a parking lot

Second in a series of updates today from the State Highway Administration operations center in Hanover.

Interstate 95 his not moving at all in the southbound direction north of Route 175, where nine vehicles got stuck this morning. The SHA is warning motorists to avoid southbound 95 between Baltimore and the Capital Beltway.

Traffic is backed up at least as far as Route 100, according to the video feed to the operations center. There is no sign of progress being made at all. Travelers should avoid the area.

According to the SHA, it has equipment of the scene towing outs the stranded vehicles -- 3 tractor-trailers, 3 SUVs and 3 passenger cars. But the SHA is having trouble getting its own equipment through.

Traffic has been halted for about 2 hours as of 12:10 P.M.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:53 AM | | Comments (1)

Message No. 1: Stay off the roads

First of a series of reports today from the State Highway Administration operations center in Hanover:

Gov. Martin O'Malley warned motorists today to "stay off the roads."


The governor urged citizens to let the road crews do their nwork. People who go out and get stranded will divert emergency services needed elsewhere.

 Here are the talking points from his morning briefing:

 --BWI Airport has recorded 20 inches, with up to 8 more inches expected, which would tie the record.

--Up to 24 inches in Allegany County.

--Howard County is one of hardest hit areas, with 24-30 inches.

--Washington region has 12-20 inches.

--Eastern Shore, 7-20 inches.

--Estimated 151,000 customers w/o power statewide, about half in Montgomery and number is increasing.

--While that's a lot, it's far less than with Hurrican Isabel in 2003.

--So far state has opened no shelters.

--Some parts of state are being hit with high winds and coastal flooding.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:58 AM |

February 5, 2010

State roads to remain open -- for now at least

State Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley says the state's roads will not be closed to traffic -- at least for now.

Maryland's transportation chief and State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen emerged from a conference room here at the SHA operations center in Hanover and said the reports they have received from around the state indicate the roads are moving as well as can be expected given the intensity of the snowstorm.

"We're managing. There are no visibility issues," said Swaim-Staley. "Traffic is still moving."

The transportation secretary said Western Maryland is getting "hammered" by the storm but noted that folks that way are used to that. The Eastern Shore, she said, is still receiving a mix of rain and snow.

Swaim-Staley said temperatures have not fallen to the point where snow has built up on the main roads.

"We've been very fortunate for the last 10 hours of the storm," she said. "That's helped a lot. We'll just continue monitoring conditions through the night and make a decision if we need to."

That decision apparently won't involve a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Martin O'Malley in Hanover. According to Swaim-Staley the governor, who had been at the Maryland Emergency management Center in Reisterstown, will head back to Annapolis tonight.

Pedersen said that as of about 9 p.m. road surface temperatures in Central Maryland are remaining in the high 20s to late 30s. He said salt remain effective at preventing freezing until surface temperatures drop into the mid-20s.

With this dispatch, this reporter is winding up his vigil in Hanover for the night. With a little luck, I'll be back here in the morning.

O'Malley is scheduled to hold a news briefing at 10 a.m.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:14 PM |

Pedersen: Roads better than expected

State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen, just got back to the agency's operations center in Hanover after a rode-around on state roads, said their condition was better than he expected.

"The plow trains are doing their job," he said. Pedersen added that visibility is actually better than it was during the December snowstorm that dumped 20-22 inches on the state. But asked whether that means an order closing the state's roads is less likely, Pedersen demurred, saying he wants to consult with his superiors -- Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley and Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Earlier a state highway spokeswoman recalled the factor that tipped the balance when such an order was issued in 2003: The visibility was so poor the snow plows had to pull over or go back to the shop.

Alert: If you're one the roads tonight (a dubious idea), you'd best avoid Maryland 295 at the Beltway. No word on what's happening there, but an SHA video camera shows quite a few emergency vehicles and flashing lights there.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:45 PM |

Roads chief calls driving ban possible

State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen just left the agency's operations center in Hanover to assess the region's rapidly deteriorating road conditions. If they are bad enough, he said, Gov. Martin O'Malley could issue an order banning driving on the state's roads until the snow emergency eases.

Pedersen said the last time such a ban was issued was during the President's Day snowstorm of 2003.

O'Malley is expected back at the operations center within a few hours. He'll be driving back from Camp Fretterd in Reisterstown so presumably he'll have a pretty good notion of his own whether a ban is warranted.

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, there are road closings cropping up around the state, including on Route 100 at Magothy Bridge Road, where a crash closed all eastbound and northbound lanes. Snow alone was reason enough to close part of  Interstate 68 in Allegany County.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:43 PM | | Comments (1)

It's whiteout all over Maryland

The video monitors here at the State Highway Administration operations center near BWI Marshall tell just one story: Wherever you look in Maryland, there are whiteout conditions on the roads.

Fortunately, the TV cameras perched at stretegic locations around the state also tell another story: Motorists are staying off the road in droves. Whether its the Baltimore Beltway, the Capital Beltway or U.S. 50, traffic is light. On the screen here, you could see a plow train in action at Interstate 695 and Baltimore National Pike, with each plow staggered to push the snow from lane to lane and off to the shoulder. Precision choreography actually -- and for the moment under the camera, at least, nobody tried to pass through the convoy.

The snow is really sticking now, where it wasn't only a couple hours ago. It's a great night to stay home. 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:16 PM |

Saturday called a day to stay home, dig out

Gov. Martin O’Malley said Marylanders will awake this morning to the most impassable streets since the 27-inch-deep snowstorm of 2003 and, if they have power, will learn that perhaps 100,000 households have not been as lucky.

In an late afternoon news conference at the State Highway Administration operations center in Hanover, the governor said the overnight snowstorm was expected much heavier and wetter than the December snowstorm that dumped 20-22 inches of fluffy powder on the region.

“This one will be a much more stubborn snow,” O’Malley said, urging citizens to have patience with state and local officials as they dig out from a storm that forecaster had predicted at 20-30 inches. “(Saturday) will be a day when everyone’s digging out – and into Sunday for that matter,” he said.

Among those digging out will be Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, where most flights were canceled after midafternoon and which is expected to be closed for takeoffs and arrivals until Sunday.

The governor and other officials urged motorists to stay off the roads Saturday unless it is absolutely necessary to go out. They urged drivers who do venture out to take it slow, take special care at highway interchanges and give snow plows a wide berth.

 “Never pass a snow plow or a snow plow train,” said state Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen, using the term for a convoy of plows acting as a team to clear multiple lanes.

 There were few serious incidents to impede the traffic flow yesterday. An exception was a collision in which a vehicle carrying two adults and three children hit the back of a salt truck on the shoulder of I-95 at Route 462 in Harford County. Officials said one adult and one child were critically injured.

Earlier Friday, O’Malley declared a state of emergency that cleared the way for the Maryland National Guard to offer assistance – and the use of their Humvees – to local first responders.

 The declaration could also clear the way for Maryland to receive federal emergency assistance if it meets the threshold of 28 inches of snowfall. Such assistance could help the state and local governments cope with the budget-busting effects of the most snowy winter in recent memory – one that was expected to put the state well above the $60 million it had allocated to removal in the current budget year.

 “We hope our federal partners measure in a snowdrift,” O’Malley said.

Most commuters avoided the worst of the storm yesterday as they departed work en masse at midday Friday – encouraged by liberal leave policies adopted by the state and federal governments and many private employers. O’Malley said the biggest surge in homebound traffic occurred between noon and 2 p.m., and mo

st roads appeared to be lightly traveled by the time the snow intensified and visibility waned in late afternoon.

Transit riders joined in the early exodus as MARC trains and Maryland Transit Administration commuter buses left early Friday afternoon in an attempt to get commuters home before the worst of the storm.

State Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said both MARC and the commuter buses performed well.

The MTA was planned to run local buses as long as possible but Swaim-Staley said it might discontinue operations earlier than it did during the last major snowstorm in December, when some buses got stuck and had to be towed out. She said some buses will run on primary routes only, requiring some passengers to walk farther to catch a bus.

MTA officials were planning to run unoccupied “snow trains” through the night to keep tracks cleared on the subway and light rail lines. But the Washington Metro was expected to suspend operations once the snow exceeded 6-8 inches.

BWI’s biggest airline, Southwest, cancelled more than 200 flights Friday and Saturday in preparation for the storm, forcing ticket holders to improvise. Southwest, like most other airlines, won’t start flying again until Sunday.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:43 PM | | Comments (1)

Rush hour seems over early

If the video screens at the State Highway Administration operations center at Hanover is any indication, the Friday evening rush hour is already over.

 Commuters appeared to have heeded the warnings of state officials to get an early start on their journey home. The federal and state governments, along with many private employers, encouraged many employees to leave work at midday.

 Along the major highways around Washington and Baltimore, traffic was lighter than usual and flowing smoothly at 4 p.m. The snowfall has steadily increased since early afternoon, but it was not sticking on major traffic arteries. A motorist reported that visibility was deteriorating sharly along Interstate 95 in Howard County, and video cameras from around the state were showing near white-out conditions.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:54 PM |

Amtrak, MARC trains on time, it seems

Operations appear quite normal at the BWI Amtrak/MARC station. With just a few flurries coming down and none of it sticking, trains in both directions are on time. A sign posted nearby says Amtrak has halted regional service south of Washington due to "inclimate" weather. I think they meant inclement.
Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 1:51 PM |

Early rush hour under way

Predictions of an early evening rush hour appear to be coming true now as commuters leave work early to beat the oncoming snowstorm.

 Video screens at the state highway operations center in Hanover, near BWI, show traffic building on the Capital Beltway and northbound Interstate 95 shortly after 1 p.m.

Snow is falling but does not appear to be sticking at most camera locations in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Early afternoon traffic on 175 West about a mile west of Dobbin Road. Photo by Joe Burris.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:07 PM |

MARC, commuter buses run early

State Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said MARC trains and Maryland Transit Administration commuter buses will depart early this afternoon in an attempt to get commuters home before the worst of today's snowstorm moves into Maryland.

Swaim-Staley said commuter duses will leave Baltimore and Washington three hours early. She said MARC trains on the Brunswick and Cam den lines will also be shifted forward, with some later trains being eliminated. She said specific information can be found at

 The secretary said the MTA will continue to run local buses as long as possible but might discontinue operations earlier than it did during the last major snowstorm in December, when some buses got stuck and had to be towed out. She said some buses will run on primary routes only, requiring some passengers to walk farther to catch a bus.

Swaim-Staley said the MTA light rail and Metro subway will be running "snow trains" during the hours the lines are closed in order to prevent a builduip of snow on the tracks.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:54 PM |

'Heavy' snow could bring power outages

The head of Maryland's emergency operations said forecasters expected the snow that will fall on Maryland today and tomorrow to be particularly wet and heavy, raising concerns about widespread power outages.

Richard Muth, director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said the heaviness of the snow -- which is predicted to reach 20-30 inches in Central Maryland -- could also lead to roof collapses in vulnerable structures.

 Muth said the amount of snow expected is the equivalent of 3 inches of water, which he called "a lot of weight on a structure."

He spoke at a news conference with Gov. Martin O'Malley and other state officials at the state highway operations center in Hanover, near BWI Marshal Airport.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:44 PM | | Comments (1)

Governor says Eastern Shore is a concern

Gov. Martin O'Malley said state officials are watching conditions on the Eastern Shore with particular concern, noting that the region is particularly vulnerable to coastal floodings in a nor'easter such as the storm moving into Maryland.

However, O'Malley said snowfall on the Shore is not expected to be as heavy as in the Interstate 95 corridor, where 20-30 inches have been predicted.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:40 PM |

O'Malley says state is prepared for worst

Gov. Martin O'Malley said today that Maryland officials are prepared to cope with a weekend snowstorm that is expected to dump and estimated 20-30 inches on the heart of the Interstate 95 corridor.

 "It's going to be a big snow," O'Malley told a news conference at the state highway operations center in Hanover. "We are prepared to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at us."

O'Malley said he has declared a state of emergency, giving the state the flexibility to draw on National Guard units to assist local first responders. The declaration could also clear the way for Maryland to receive federal emergency assistance if it meets the threshhold of 28 inches of snowfall. "We hope our federal partners measure in a snowdrift," O'Malley said.

The governor urged that motorists stay off the roads tonight and tomorrow if at all possible. "Curl up with a book and stay off the roads," he said.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:29 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

O'Malley declares state of emergency

Gov. O'Malley has declared a state of emergency, allowing National Guard to be called out to assist with snowstorm expected to dump 20-30 inches on Maryland.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:19 PM |

Expect early rush hour today

With an estimated 2 feet of snow on the way, Maryland highway officials are expecting the peak evening travel time to come a couple hours early.

A State Highway Administration spokeswoman said the agency's experience with snowstorms like the one expected to engulf Maryland today and tomorrow suggests that the heaviest traffic could come at midafternoon, with volumes slacking off before sunset.

The spokeswoman said the morning rush hours into both Baltimore and Washington were especially light this morning, offeing some relief for the motorists who did venture out. Liberal leave policy is in effect for state workers, alllowing thousands of drivers to get an early start home.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:55 AM |
Categories: On the roads

February 4, 2010

GBC to fight diversion of transportation funds

Sun photo

Greater Baltimore Committee President Donald C. Fry (right) said his group will fight a proposal by General Assembly budget analysts to divert money expected to go toward transportation starting in 2013 to the state general fund.

Under a state law adopted in 2008, the percentage of the state's sales tax revenue that is expected to be devoted to the Transportation Trust Fund is expected to increase from 5.3 percent to 6.5 percent starting with the budget year that begins July 1, 2013. The state Department of Legislative Services urged the legislature Wednesday to cancel that increase and keep the money for general use. Such a move would cost the transportation fund almost $60 million a year in the early years of the change, which would be permanent. The decrease would follow several years in which transportation programs have been deferred because of a recession-related shortage of money to undertake  them.

Fry said his group, representing Baltimore-area business leaders, would lobby vigorously against the proposal.

"This is not the time for the legislature to be reaching into  the Transportation Trust Fund cookie jar and getting whatever crumbs are left," Fry said.



Fry said the diversion of transportation money to the general fund -- a move the state has resorted to previously to close budget gaps -- erodes public support for revenue-raising measures for roads and transit projects.

"The public feels the legislature does  not honor  the trust portion of the Transportation Trust Fund," he said.

Fry said legislative  analysts have long been cool toward the idea of dedicating part of the sales tax to a dedicated purpose such as transportation. But he said the Assembly determined that the trust fund needed a source of funding that tended to grow with inflation.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:49 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: For policy wonks only

MARC plans full service -- with earlier trains

The MARC commuter system is planning to run a full schedule tomorrow, but with some trains departing Washington earlier to help commuters escape an expected snowstorm a few hours early. MARC will also increase  railcar capacity on its 12:30 Penn Line  departure from Washington, which could be packed.

Here's the latest from the Maryland Transit Administration:

Attention MARC Passengers--

Full service will operate on all three lines on Friday, February 5. In anticipation of the large snowstorm forecast for tomorrow, MARC has made the following changes to service for Friday, February 5 ONLY:

Penn Line: No additional trains will operate, but starting with train 520 (12:20pm departure from Washington), the larger rush-hour trainsets will be used on all trains.

Camden Line: Train 852 (5:51pm departure from Washington) will be cancelled. An extra Camden Line train will depart Union Station at 2:00pm making all stops to Camden Yards.

Brunswick Line: Train 877 (4:55pm departure from Washington) will be cancelled. An extra Brunswick Line train will depart Union Station at 2:40pm making all stops to Martinsburg, WV. Train 871 (Friday-only 1:40pm departure from Washington) will operate as scheduled.

The latest predictions are that the snow will begin in the late morning. Please exercise extreme caution tomorrow when arriving at your station, parking your car, walking to and boarding your train.

Thank you for riding MARC Train Service.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:54 PM |
Categories: MARC train

With snowstorm looming, AAA offers tips for drivers

AAA Mid-Atlantic is offering five tips for drivers striving to cope with the snowstorm expected to bury much of Maryland over the weekend. It's good -- and not always obvious -- advice.

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s top five last minute, common sense tips:

 • Dress as if you were going to be stranded. – It can get very cold in a car on the side of the road waiting for help. Be sure to have extra blankets and to insist that children who may be traveling with you do the same.

• Open the garage door before starting the car to prevent carbon monoxide build up. - It is easy to lose track of time and carbon monoxide is almost impossible to detect and can be fatal when inhaled in a confined area.

 • Bring your vehicle clearing supplies, such as your ice scraper, snow shovels, and deicer spray, inside. –Even the best prepared motorists are sometimes frustrated to wake up and find all of their supplies frozen inside the car.

• Check your antifreeze to ensure it will withstand the winter cold, using a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water to protect against freezing.

• Never pour hot water on door locks or windows to deice them, as they may crack. Frozen door locks can be overcome by carefully heating the end of a key with a match or lighter. A squirt of de-icer spray is another quick method.

Of course, the best advice at all in a Baltimore snowstorm is: Stay home  until the roads are clear.


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

Beltway Outer Loop to reopen at Curtis Creek

With work on the Curtis Creek drawbridge complete -- for now at least --the Maryland Transportation Authority will open the Outer Loop of the Beltway in the vicinity of Maryland Route 10 Friday morning at 7.a.m. Authority spokeswoman Teri Moss said the time of the opening had been moved forward because of a snowstorm expected to arrive later Friday.

When the  Outer Loop opens, the authority will stop two-way operations on the Inner Loop. One lane of the Inner Loop will remain closed until about next Thursday. Inner Loop traffic will continue in the single remaining lane.

Inner Loop traffic will be  held up periodically tonight (Thursday ) between 7 p.m. and midnight to test the bridge mechanism. The authority will also be conducting traffic drags -- designed to slow vehicles -- on the Outer Loop from midnight to 7 a.m. The authority suggest that motorists use an alternate route such as Interstate 895 or Interstate 95.

This week's traffic pattern changes will be followed by additional lane closings next week and a five-week closing of the Inner Loop at the drawbridge starting Feb. 24.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:14 PM |
Categories: On the roads

Metro to close stations if snow exceeds 8 inches

The Washington Metro will close its above-ground stations if this weekend's expected snow accumulation exceeds 8 inches. The Maryland Transit Administration is warning MARC riders to be sure they can make their train connections Friday evvening if the snow falls faster than expected. Here's the MTA's release:

Attention MARC Passengers who transfer from Washington Metrorail to MARC at New Carrollton, College Park, Greenbelt, Silver Spring, and Rockville-- Please be aware that Washington Metrorail will close all above-ground stations when snow accumulation reaches eight inches or more. While that level of accumulation is not anticipated by the end of tomorrow's rush hour, please have a backup plan to get to your MARC station in the event your Metro station closes.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:02 PM |

MTA commuter buses set early return trips

Because of an exppected snowstorm, the Maryland Transit Administration has announced early return trips Friday afternoon for many of its commuter buses departing Baltimore and Washington. Many buses will be leaving three hours early.

Riders of MTA commuter routes should check the following release:

Attention ALL Commuters:

In anticipation of the pending snow event tomorrow, Friday, February 5, 2010, Commuter Bus will be amending the afternoon schedule. Commuter Bus will NOT be using the early release schedule listed in the printed schedules.

Afternoon trips will begin running three (3) hours earlier than the regular schedule.  For example: If you normally board your bus at 4:00pm, your bus will leave at 1:00pm.

Midday trips will operate as scheduled.  See chart below.

The last trips for the day will depart considerably earlier. There will be NO more buses after the posted times below:

Baltimore Service
310 - 2:35pm 
320 - 2:10pm 
410 - 2:25pm 
411 - 2:00pm 
420 - 2:00pm, *Friday Trip A will operate as scheduled at 12:50pm.

Washington Service
901 - 3:30pm, *Midday Trip 31 will operate as scheduled at 12:20pm.
902 - 2:40pm, *Midday Trip 18 will operate as scheduled at 12:05pm.
903 - 2:10pm 
904 - 2:40pm, *Midday Trip 15 will operate as scheduled at 12:15pm.
905 - 3:00pm, *Midday Trip 24 will operate as scheduled at 12:15pm.
907 - 2:10pm 
909 - 2:00pm 
915 - 3:05pm 
922 - 3:00pm 
929 - 4:00pm, *Midday Trip 13 will operate as scheduled at 1:00pm.
950 - 3:30pm, *Midday Trip 18 will operate as scheduled at 12:45pm.
991 - 4:00pm, *Midday Trip 17 will operate as scheduled at 1:10pm.
995 - 2:30pm 

Thank you for riding MTA Commuter Bus.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:59 PM |
Categories: MTA bus system

BWI hunkers down for another snowstorm

Baltimore/ Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has gone on full alert in anticipation of the snowstorm forecast to hit Maryland Friday and Saturday.

According to BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean, the airport is recommending that travelers check with their airlines for information on their flights before going to the airport. Dean suggests monitoring airline web sites for flight information or checking the airport web site at

If the storm arrives as predicted, potentially bringing up to 2 feet of snow, BWI Marshall Airport will call in all emergency and essential staff and will activate snow removal crews. Those teams will work to remove snow and ice from runways, taxiways, ramp areas, public roadways, parking lots and sidewalks. BWI expects to muster more than 350 airport workers and contractors along with 200 pieces of specialized snow removal equipment. The airport has on hand more than 220 tons of sand, 170 tons of salt, 100 tons of solid chemical deicer, and 55,000 gallons of liquid chemical deicer, according to Dean.

BWI recommends that passengers consider using covered parking in the Daily Garage or the Hourly Garage rather than uncovered long-term or satellite lots.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Air travel

February 3, 2010

BWI gets its own brewpub

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport now has own its own brewpub -- or at least a branch thereof -- with the opening of DuClaw Brewing Co. near the Southwest Airlines ticket counter.

DuClaw, a local restaurant chain with its brewing operations in Abingdon, has outlets in Arundel Mills, Bel Air and Bowie Town Center. The BWI outlet is its first airport location.

DuClaw is the producer of such beers as Misfit Red, Venom Pale Ale, Hellrazer and Kangaroo Love.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:13 PM |
Categories: Air travel

February 2, 2010

Auto industry turns upside down

This 2010 could turn out to be a strange year indeed. First a Republican wins a Senate seat in Massachusetts. Then Toyota stumbles while GM and Ford soar.

The latest auto sales figures show Toyota sales down 16 percent in January over the same month a year ago  as the Japanese automaker was forced to recall millions of vehicles for defects.

Meanwhile, GM sales rose 14 percent and Ford posted an impressive 25 percent gain. True, these numbers were being compared with a truly dismal January last year, but considering that GM at least had a highly questionable future a year ago, it's a number the company can be proud of.

Not all imported brands lagged. Nissan sales rose 16  percent and Hyundai 24 percent, but Honda slipped 5 percent. Chrysler, still hanging in there as the No. 3 domestic producer, posted a decline of 8 percent as sales of its Dodge Rams fell.

The most fascinating question is how much damage Toyota has done to its reputation for quality with its gas pedal defect and its allegedly sluggish response to alerts from the U.S. government. The company has a loyal customer bases, but this has to be causing some strain.

I've been a bit skeptical about Toyota's reputation since a bad experience with a Toyota Camry back in the 1980s and 1990s. By comparison, the GM and Ford cars I've driven have been reliable, and my current Hyundai has had a stellar record (knock on wood).

So is anybody out there weeping for Toyota? Besides the dealers, of course.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:07 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

Traffic pattern shifts for Charles St. bridge project

The State Highway Administration will close the ramp from southbound Charles Street to the eastbound Interstate 695 Thursday night as part of the replacement of a bridge over the Beltway.

As of Friday morning, motorists approaching the Beltway from Lutherville will be diverted to York Road until this fall. The ramp from northbound Charles to the eastbound Beltway will remain open.

On Friday morning,  motorists approaching the Charles Street Interchange from Lutherville will be directed to a detour using Bellona avenue and the York Road interchange instead of Charles Street. 

According to the SHA, the long-term temporary ramp closure is part of phase two of construction of the new Charles Street bridge over I-695. The project is expected to be completed in late spring 2012. The work zone is one of three in the state being monitored with speed cameras.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:37 AM |
Categories: On the roads

AirTran adds BWI flights to Jacksonville

AirTran Airways has  announced that it will begin new nonstop service between Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Jacksonville, Fla. starting May 4. The airline will offer two daily nonstop flights between the two cities.

AirTran will offer flights to Jacksonville departing BWI at 10:30 a,m. and 7:55 p.m. Flights bound for BWI will depart Jacksonville at 7:40 a.m. and 3 p.m. Introductory fares will be as  low  as $74 one-way but must be booked by February 25 for travel through June 9.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:09 AM |
Categories: Air travel

February 1, 2010

Maglev fails to get $1.7 billion in U.S. funding

At the same the Obama administration allocated $70 million to two Maryland rail projects last week, it also turned thumbs-down on the city's effort to gain $1.7 billion  in funding for the long-discussed, semi-dormant proposed Maglev train  line between Baltimore and Washington.

The Maryland Department of Transportation had put the request in at the behest  of the Baltimore city administration -- hardly a ringing endorsement. Robert Kulat, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, said a statutory impediment to Maryland spending any money of its own on Maglev was a significant impediment to federal approval.

Maglev supporters can take some comfort in the fact the Federal Railroad Administration did not find the project ineligible. The FRA classified it a a project that was "not ready" for funding. So the grant application could return another day. Until then,  Maryland will have to content itself with $60 million for the engineering work on a new Amtrak runnel in Baltimore to replace the 1873 Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel and $10 million toward a new BWI train station.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:57 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads

Maryland got 'peanuts,' Florida congressman says

When the Obama administration announced which states would be the winners in the $8 billion high-speed rail derby last week, Florida was one of the biggest winners -- getting $1.2 billion to build a rail line from Tampa to Orlando. Maryland, on the other hand, received $70 million for two critical but more  modest projects -- better than many states but far behind the biggest beneficiaries.

So now a Florida congressman is contending that Maryland got "peanuts," Southerrn Maryland Online reports.

U.S. Rep. John Mica, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee and one of the leading cheerleaders for high-speed rail in Congress, said the money Maryland received toward a new Amtrak tunnel in Baltimore and a new BWI train station was "an insult."

If Maryland's own representatives were feeling insulted, they concealed it well. Most of the state's top Democrats welcomed the money. But Mica's point is that more of the money should have been directed into the Northeast Corridor to bring it up to a condition that would support truly high speeds.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:52 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads

WMATA faces new budget woes

Last week the Washington Metro system averted service cutbacks to close a $40 million gap in its fiscal 2010 budget by enacting a 1--cent, across-the-board fare increase. No sooner had it done so, Greater Greater Washington reports, than its management released a fiscal 2011 budget showing a $190 million deficit -- along with a highly unpalatable menu of choices to close the gap.

One of the possibilities suggested is extracting a higher contribution from local jurisdictions -- including Maryland. That would be a tough sell in hard budget times even if it weren't  an election year. Other alternatives include fare increases, service  cuts and  additional staff cuts.

My least favorite proposals: A doubling of the fare on the B30 bus between BWI and Greenbelt Metro to $6 and an increase in the annual cost of a bike locker from $70 to $200. 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: WMATA/D.C. Metro
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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

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

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