Two weeks of commuting nightmares coming
Commuters who drive to downtown Baltimore from the south face two weeks of serious backups as maintenance work on a pipeline forces the closing of one of the two main ramps leading from Interstate 95 to the central business district.
The Maryland Transportation Authority will close the Exit 52 ramp to Russell Street from northbound I-95 from about 9 p.m. this Saturday through 6 a.m. Saturday, March 20. The effect will be that most commuters who normally use that ramp will be diverted onto the already busy Exit 53 ramp to Interstate 395.
"We are anticipating major delays, especially during the morning rush," said authority spokeswoman Teri Moss. I-95 withiin the city, as well as I-395, falls into the jurisdiction of that agency, which also operates the state's toll facilities, rather than the State Highway Administration. "It is a major closure."
The authority said the ramp must be closed so BGE crews can do maintenance work on the natural gas transmission pipeline that runs underneath the Russell Street ramp. Moss said the round-the-clock closure will let the utility finish the work more quickly than it otherwise could. Moss said the work was scheduled for this month so that it would not interfere with stadium events such as the Orioles season that begins in April.
Moss urged motorists to seek alternate routes, travel before or after peak periods or to leave extra time for their commute.
In addition to the Russell Street ramp, the authority willl also close the right lane of I-95 between the Caton Avenue entrance ramp and Russell Street.
Linda Foy, a spokeswoman for BGE, said the utility regrets the inconvenience to drivers.
"Detours never make for happy motoring, but we certainly had to do this work," she said. "There's work we have to do to comply with the (federal) Pipeline Integrity Act."
Foy said there was nothing unusual about the work except that it is occurring in such a busy location.
The BGE spokeswoman said the company will be conducting a hands-on, visual inspection of a 125-foot section of a 24-inch gas transmission pipeline that feeds into a series of smaller distribution pipelines.
Foy said the company believes March is the least disruptive time to complete the work.
"We believe the time we selected, working with the state and the ciity, minimizes the impact," she said.