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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be specific about times and places.