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May 28, 2010

Even Washington moving smoothly

Remarkably, even the Washington area seems to have avoided the worst of Memorial Day traffic.The Capital Beltway in Maryland shows nothing worse than a 6 on traffic.com's 10-point scale. Even Interstate 95  in Northern Virginia -- typically the worst bottleneck in the  region at peak travel times -- is no worse than a 7. That means speeds averaging 35 mph between  Dale  City and Triangle. It could be a lot worse.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Is this really a holiday rush hour?

All the warnings to leave work early today appear to have been heeded. A check of CHART system cameras around the state shows that traffic around 5:30 p.m. is, if anything, much lighter than the typical Friday rush hour.

Even the west side of the Beltway was moving briskly around Interstate 70 -- a rare occurrence. The only congestion spotted in a quick sampling of hot spots was on Interstate 95 at Route 100, and even there traffic was moving steadily.

Bay Bridge traffic was heavy at lunchtime, but the rains have held off, three lanes have remained open for eastbound travelers  and  traffic appears light for a Friday at this time . It probably helped that state employees were on furlough, but it also seems that transportation officials succeeded in getting out their message to avoid the late afternoon rush.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:31 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Roads look clear in most of Maryland

A check just now of the State Highway Administration's list of road incidents shows few problems around the state except on Liberty Road in Carroll County, where  an accident has closed Route 26 in both direction.

Apart from that, it's been an uneventful Memorial Day weekend so far.

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:02 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Bay Bridge looks amazingly clear

Holiday travelers might have just dodged a potentially sticky situation on the Bay Bridge. As of 4 p.m. the roads are dry in the bridge area and traffic is moving briskly.

According to the State Highway Administration's CHART cameras, the traffic looks less congested than it did between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Could it be that so many people heeded the warnings of possible backups that the bulk of travelers left early in the day?

Anyway, the lack of rain means the Maryland Transportation Authority has been able to keep three lanes open to westbound traffic  through most of the day and into the start of the peak evening travel hours. Sun weather reporter Frank Roylance says most of the current storm activity is out in the mountains. Maybe  this won't be so  bad after all.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:56 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Crash closes I-83 near Ruxton

A single-car crash on Interstate 83 near Ruxton Road has closed all southbound lanes, according to the SHA's CHART system. A witness reported on Twitter that a northbound car "drove up the grassy hill and flipped onto" southbound I-83.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:57 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Maybe noon wasn't early enough

The Maryland Transportation Authority urged beachgoers to get their Bay Bridge travel over by noon today to avoid eastbound congestion. Judging by the CHART cameras along U.S. 50, the authority should have said 10 a.m.

Even with dry roads, traffic is  crawling near Sandy Point, and the backup appears to be starting around St. Margaret's Road to the east. Let's hope the storms hold off.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:42 AM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Bay Bridge already moving slowly

The warnings that travelers should leave early if they are heading for the beach apparently hhave been heeded -- maybe too well. State traffic cameras show that eastbound traffic is moving slowly but steadily at Sandy Point and coming off the Bridge on Kent Island even though three lanes are in eastbound use.

This blog will be keeping an eye on those cameras through the afternoon, but readers can take their own look by signing on to the state's CHART system and clicking on the U.S. 50 cameras on the bridge approaches.

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

Did Metro kill the B30 bus?

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's board adopted a sweeping package of fare increases last night while protecting the system from most service cuts.

I don't doubt the necessity or the increases or the wisdom of preserving service, but the one far increase that strikes me as counterproductive is the jump in the fare of the B30 bus from Greenbelt Metro to BWI from $3.10 to $6.

This near-doubling will be a real shock to the budgets of those who depend on it, and will discourage its use as a transit bridge between Baltimore  and Washington on weekends or when MARC is disabled. It's not that the fare shouldn't have risen -- $3 was a bargain -- but transit agencies ought to implement increases more incrementally.

We'll just have to see what this does to ridership on the bus. It would be a shame if this were a death blow.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:56 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: WMATA/D.C. Metro
        

May 27, 2010

Air Tran offers nonstops to San Antonio

AirTran Airways says it will begin offering one nonstop flight a day between Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall and San Antonio starting May 27.

Flights will depart BWI at 1:25 p.m. and arrive in San Antonio at 4:20 p.m. Return flights will leave Texas at at 4:12 p.m. and arrive at BWI at 8:40 p.m. 

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

Blog compares O'Malley, Ehrlich on roads, transit

Adam Pagnucco presents a fascinating comparison of transportation spending priorities under former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Gov. Martin O'Malley on Maryland Politics Watch. Budget wonks will find the tables especially illuminating.

Clearly, if new roads are your thing, Ehrlich's the man. If it's transit you care about,  O'Malley's the guy.

One factor to consider: While the MTA and WMATA figures capture almost all state spending on transit, the SHA totals don't  include a  large chunk of road spending accounted for through the toll-financed Maryland Transportation Authority. That includes  much of the cost of the Inter-county Connector and the express toll lanes on  Interstate 95. It's probably just as well, for political comparisons, because the authority's figures would show a lot of spending on those projects under O'Malley that was planned under Ehrlich. Don't conclude that road spending has ground to a halt. It's just that two projects are consuming a lot of dollars.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:17 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Here's some resources for holiday travelers

Joe Fox, a public relations representative for the electronic mapping firm  NAVTEQ,, is passing along some information about resources that could be useful for travelers over the Memorial Day holiday. To save you a step, the city code for Baltimore is BLT.

Here's what he has for you:

Here are three easy ways to receive Traffic.com alerts:

1.    Visit the NAVTEQ Traffic.com mobile website on your cell phone or PDA. The site is free, and the content can be invaluable.

2.    Save 1-866-MY-TRAFC (1-866-698-7232) to a phone favorites list before leaving home. This free hotline provides speed dial access to NAVTEQ Traffic.com-ideal for avoiding heavy traffic, construction, and accidents on your long weekend trip.

3.    Send a SMS text message to get real-time traffic information for city hotspots. Simply text your CITY CODE, (NY, CHIC, PHL, LA, etc.) to TRAFC (87232). City codes can be found here

For further information please check out their press release:

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:34 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Bay Bridge question answered

An earlier reader was wondering about the operations of the Bay Bridge. Though he got the acronym for the agency wrong (the MTA is the Maryland Transit Administration while the Maryland Transportation Authority uses the clunky MdTA), that's the fault of the General Assembly's lack of imagination in naming agencies. Here's what he had to say:

There's really no need for the MTA to have 2-way traffic on the 3 lanes bridge. If they had any common sense, they should use the 2 lanes bridge for westbound and the 3 lanes bridge for eastbound and reverse direction come Monday. This should be the safest way for traveling across the Bay Bridge. 

I raised that issue with the authority and got the following response:

 Please thank your reader for inquiring about switching the Bay Bridge traffic pattern so that westbound traffic travels the two-lane eastbound span and eastbound traffic travels the three-lane westbound span.

In order to accommodate such a traffic pattern, significant construction would need to occur along the bridge approaches on both shores, including construction of fly-over ramps and access lanes. In addition to planning, design and construction costs, such ramps would incur ongoing maintenance and security costs, as well as annual inspection costs.

We appreciate your reader’s interest in the Bay Bridge. We’d like to remind travelers to Stay Alert So No One Gets Hurt during this busy holiday weekend. Bay Bridge travelers can call 1-877-BAYSPAN (229-7726) for 24/7 traffic conditions and visit www.baybridge.com to view bridge traffic cameras and sign up for email alerts.

Thanks, Kelly

Kelly L. Melhem

Deputy Director of Communications

Maryland Transportation Authority

Let me add to that: Adding the type of fly-over ramps it would take to allow such movements would easily take hundreds of millions -- if not more than a billion -- dollars. The project would likely involve higher tolls.

In addition, the planning and engineering of such a project would take more years than most people would think. There would have to be federal environmental studies, public  hearings, local government input, General Assembly review -- to name just a few of the hoops. Then you'd have the question about whether it makes sense  to invest that money in an already aging bridge. Oh,  and there could be court challenges to any decision that was made.

So we're likely talking about decades before construction  if this were judged a worthy idea. Nothing is easy when it comes to major transportation projects.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:07 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities
        

Getting There live chat here at noon

Memorial Day traffic, the Red Line, speed cameras, bicycles and motorists, cell phones and driving -- all will be fair game today at noon when Getting There with Michael Dresser hosts a live chat on Maryland transportation topics.

Just come to the blog a little before noon. If you can't make it at lunchtime, you can leave a comment now in either the widget below or in the comments field. But remember, I won't be answering questions until 12 p.m.

 


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:52 AM | | Comments (1)
        

Security drill at train stations finished

A surprise security drill at Maryland train stations, which raised curiosity among many morning rail commuters, is over now and has been pronounced a success.

Col. John E. Gavrilis, chief of the Maryland Transit Administration Police, said the exercise at multiple Maryland MARC stations was part of a  a larger operation including law enforcement agencies along the Eastern Seaboard.

The drill,  which was not announced in advance, lasted from about 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., Gavrilis  said. It included a variety of agencies, including federal air marshals, the Transportation Security Administration, the MTA police, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, the Baltimore Police Department and other local police agencies. The event was not  announced by the MTA until after it was over.

 

Among other things, Gavrilis said, the exercise was used to test the compatibility of various  agenciies' communications systems -- a critical weakness identified after 9/11. Gavriilis said the systems tested out well.

"There were no unusual events -- extremely high praise from the public," he said.

Gavrilis said such tests take place almost weekly but that this one was on a larger scale than the typical drilll.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:19 AM | | Comments (1)
        

Bay Bridge work grinds to halt on brink of ending

The years-long deck replacement project on the westbound Bay Bridge, which the Maryland Transportation Authority had hoped to complete by Memorial Day, fell short of that goal overnight when a grinding machine broke down, an authority spokeswoman said today.

"We were very close and we had a breakdown," spokeswoman Kelly Melhem said.

The authority now plans to close the westbound span of the bridge for one more night next week to complete the remaining work of grinding down the pavement for a smoother surface, Melhem said. The $65 million deck project began in 2006 and has been the cause of regular overnight closings of the westbound bridge since late 2007.

All lanes of the bridge are expected to be open Thursday night and this weekend for Memorial Day travel, she said.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:53 AM | | Comments (1)
        

Camden Yards is scene of security exercise

If you're in the Camden Yards area this morning, you might notice an unusual amount of police activity. Don't worry. According to the Maryland Transit Administration, it's part of a security exercise. Here's the MTA's news release:

MTA POLICE CONDUCT RAIL SECURITY EXERCISE


Local exercise will target MARC Train stations on the Penn, Camden, and Brunswick Lines.


(BALTIMORE, MD) May 27, 2010 - The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) police will take part in a multi-jurisdictional police exercise to hone coordinated security monitoring skills on Thursday, May 27, 2010 as part of a major effort to enhance rail safety along the East Coast.


 

The effort dubbed the Multi Agency Rail Security Day (MARS) will include officers from the TAC/VIPR Teams, personnel specially trained to identify suspicious persons and situations. The teams include officers from the MTA Police, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Air Marshalls and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. More than a dozen local law enforcement agencies are also participating as part of a multi-jurisdictional police operation from New England to Virginia.


The MARS exercise will involve detailed security checks, but MTA police do not anticipate any delays in service for MARC Train passengers. The role of the MTA Police is to coordinate regional security activities in Maryland and West Virginia.


“These cooperative operations by law enforcement across all levels reinforce our commitment to rail safety as we rise to the challenges in a post 9/11 world,” said Colonel John Gavrillis, Chief of the MTA Police. “While we work diligently to safeguard our passengers and employees, we also ask customers to be our eyes and ears. If you hear, see or smell something suspicious, call 1-800-492-TIPS (8477).”


The MTA Police Command Center will be based at the MTA’s Camden Yards station.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:37 AM |
Categories: City bus service, Light rail, MARC train, MTA bus system
        

Traveling this weekend? Let's hear your plan

If you're going to be on the roads this weekend, we'd be happy to hear from you about secret shortcuts (if you're willing to share with a select few), bottlenecks and the general condition of the roads. Please leave comments here or send me an email.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

May 26, 2010

Bay Bridge could face 'perfect storm' scenario

Bay Bridge

Sun photo/Michael Dresser

Not to be too alarmist, but if you're heading for Ocean City, the Delaware beaches or the Eastern Shore this holiday weekend there are compelling reasons to avoid the Bay Bridge at Friday's peak evening traffic.

First, traffic is expected to be heavy. AAA Mid-Atlantic is projecting a "robust" travel weekend this Memorial Day, with an expected 6.8 percent increase in the number of Marylanders traveling by automobile.

Second, bookings are up in Ocean City, where city officials are expecting brisk business.

Next, the weather Saturday through Monday is expected to be lovely -- likely enticing spur-of-the-moment visitors who want to grab 2-3 days of sun.

But Friday night could be miserable, with thunderstorms by day followed by showers at night, according to the National Weather Service. And that's bad news for anyone crossing the Bay Bridge.

 

Here's the problem: Normally, on a Friday afternoon and evening in vacation season, the Maryland Transportation Authority will turn over an extra lane to eastbound travelers to relieve congestion. It does this by opening the westbound span to two-way traffic, using one of the three lanes for eastbound vehicles.

But not in heavy rain or wind, according to authority spokeswoman Kelly Melhem. The reason: safety.

"If there is any chance of severe weather, that would prevent us from going into two-way operations," Melhem said.

Were that to happen, a heavy volume of eastbound vacation-goers could be joining the normal contingent of Eastern Shore commuters to converge on the two eastbound lanes of the original bridge at about the same time.  It doesn't take a traffic engineer to figure out what that means.

So if you would avoid one of the Bay Bridge's epic backups, you might want to look for an alternate strategy.  The authority recommends traveling before noon Friday -- a great idea if you can get off work. Leaving in early afternoon could avoid the worst of the mess, though holiday travel conditions tend to get heavy by midafternoon on getaway day. Alternately, the authority suggests that you can avoid the worst by getting on the road after 10 p.m.

The authority has one strategy it could trot out if conditions get too bad Friday night. Melhem said that on rare occasions it will cut westbound travel down to one lane and close the center lane of the westbound span as a buffer between it and the third westbound lane. But she said the authority will only employ that after westbound traffic has dropped to volumes where it won't back up onto Kent Island -- probably after 8 p.m. She said that strategy would not be employed if the rain is heavy.

Leaving Thursday night would normally be a good option, but the weather service is predicting thunderstorms that evening. The authority is recommending traveling that day before 2 p.m.

So if none of the recommended Bay Bridge options are appealing, Baltimore-area residents might want to consider bypassing the bridge and taking the northern route around Elkton. (Washingtonians and Annapolitans are pretty much stuck with the bridge.)

The Getting There route to the beaches:  Interstate 95 to the North East (Md.) exit, exit on Route 272 and keep right toward U.S. 40, take left onto 40 and continue into Delaware, take right on Wrangle Hill Road to Delaware 1 (parts toll)  heading south. From there, the route depends on your destination. (Delaware 1 will get you to the Delaware beaches and U.S. 113 to Ocean City. DE 387 for north O.C. and Fenwick island/MD 90 for central O.C./U.S. 50 for downtown.)

This route avoids possible backups for the Delaware Toll Plaza. No guarantees there won't be congestion on DE 1  for those without E-ZPass, but it's unlikely to be anywhere near as the bridge in bad weather.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:11 PM | | Comments (9)
        

Lacrosse to cross up weekend downtown traffic

If you've been looking for a good excuse to take mass transit to downtown -- and check out the new Charm City Circulator while you're in the city -- this would be the weekend.

Downtown traffic could be tied up much of the weekend for the NCAA lacross championships taking place at the Ravens' stadium Saturday through Monday. The city is warning motorists to expect delays and unusual traffic patterns. Lacrosse fans are being urged to use commercial parking lots because neighborhood parking restrictions will be in force.

Transportation officials are suggesting that downtown visitors take the light rail, bus system or Metro subway to get to the central city. From there, visitors can get around town by taking water taxis or the free Charm City Circulator, which runs from Harbor East to the Hollins Market along Pratt and Lombard streets.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:08 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Work on Lombard, President could delay traffic

Milling and paving work has resumed along Lombard Street on the east side of downtown, and the city Department of Transportation is warning about delays and urging motorists to us alternate routes.

The work, which will take place between President and Calvert streets, will leave three lanes of Lombard open, according to the dpartment. Much of the work is expected to be done in off-peak hours to reduce congestion.

Nevertheless, the city is recommending alternate routes for people traveling through downtown to other destinations. For what it's worth, the suggested routes move a lot more briskly than those that run through the heart of  downtown.

 

Here they are:

Commuters traveling from east or southeast Baltimore destined for points west or south of the downtown area (ie. the stadiums, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, Washington D.C., etc.) should take Central Avenue to Orleans Street (which becomes Franklin Street) and then to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. This leads to Route 295 (Russell Street) and I-395.


Commuters traveling from the north along the Jones Falls Expressway (I-83) with the same destinations should exit at North Avenue, proceed onto Mt. Royal Avenue, then bear right on Cathedral Street and turn right onto Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:53 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

May 25, 2010

Is this an anniversary to celebrate?

license platesBefore getting to the fun part, I should admit up front that the state Motor Vehicle Administration is a necessary agency that plays a vital roles in enhancing the safety of Maryland roads. That being said, it is the government bureaucracy that everybody loves to hate, so the announcement that the MVA is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary begs the question: How many folks are still in line from then?

MVA spokesman Buel Young was kind enough to remind me that the anniversary is coming up July 1, a century after the  Maryland Office of the Commissioner of  Motor Vehicles came into existence July 1, 1910. Its original function was to regulate the safety of  vehicles.Vehicle and driver licensing actually began earlier under the supervision of the Secretary of State.

 As part of the celebration, the MVA will  hold an exhibition of 100 years of automobiles -- from the antique to the contemporary -- at its Glen Burnie  headquarters, 6601 Ritchie  Highway N.E. on Saturday, June 12, from noon to 4 p.m. The event will start with the arrival of 100 motorcycles -- with models from each of the agency's decades of existence -- at  the  headquarters.

There should be plenty of ways to spice up such an event, such as an ugly driver's license picture contest or a surliest clerk competition. What could be more fun than a day at the MVA.  At least they're promising to have folks out of there in four hours.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:28 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Join a live chat here at noon Thursday

Let's talk transportation.

On Thursday at noon, Getting There blogger Michael Dresser will be here for a live discussion of transportation-related news affecting Marylanders.

Possible topics include the new cell phone legislation adopted by the Maryland General Assembly, the new 3-foot buffer rule for motorists passing bicyclists, the Red Line, the future of MARC and the prospects for Memorial Day weekend travel.

Just sign on to the Getting There blog, and instructions in how to participate in the chat will be provided. Or, if you'd like, leave questions in advance in the Comments section below.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:06 AM | | Comments (2)
        

May 24, 2010

Seat belt use down, deaths up after dark

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Governors Highway Safety Association launched their annual Click It or Ticket campaign today, promising stepped-up enforcement of seat belt laws in those states wise enough to have them. Maryland is one of those states.

One of the problems with such laws is that they become more difficult to enforce after dark. Not surprisingly, seat belt use tends to decline at night and auto death go up.

The GHSA  released some statistics  today illustrating just how dangerous it is to skip seat belts. At a time when seat belt use is running about 84 percent overall, about 55 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were  killed in 2008 weren't using them. And of the 12,000 vehicle occupants killed in night  crashes, two-thirds of them weren't using seat belts. In Illinois, more than three-quarters of those killed during the early morning hours were not restrained.

Looked at another way, the numbers are an especially persuasive advertisement for seat belts. If seat belt users account for 84 percent of the people in cars, but only 45 percent of those killed in crashes, that certainly suggests they work. 

Or maybe the numbers  suggest we get dumber after dark.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:55 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Rolling Thunder means look out for motorcycles

This Memorial Day weekend will bring the Rolling Thunder gathering of motorcyclists and others to Washington in their effort to push for an accounting of veterans missing in past wars. For Marylanders, that means there will be a surge in the number of motorcycle riders on the state's roads as they head for the capital -- and extra reason to keep an eye out for bikers.

The last Rolling Thunder run in 2008 brought 350,000 motorcycles to Washington. For the event, warning signs will be  placed at intersections that have a track record of crashes involving bikers. Two of the intersections are Connecticut Avenue and R Street and New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, eight motorcyclists killed in the District of Columbia in 2008, six were Marylanders.  He also pointed out that Memorial Day has in the past been a dangerous  holiday for motorcycle riders in Maryland, accounting for five of Maryland's 85 motorcycle deaths that year.

Allstate Insurance Co., which has been working with the District Department of Transportation on safety preparations for the event,  is urging drivers to take extra time to verify that no motorcycles are approaching before entering an intersection. That's always good advice, but seldom more timely than this weekend -- especially if you'll be traveling in the Washington area.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:27 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

May 21, 2010

Water main break shuts part of Cold Spring Lane

This just in from the Baltimore Department of Transportation:

The Baltimore City Department of Transportation today announced that a portion of Cold Spring Lane now closed due to a water main break. Cold Spring Lane is closed to through traffic at this time between Hillen and Harford Roads with detours in effect. This Cold Spring Lane closure is expected to remain in effect until sometime Saturday afternoon.


Motorists traveling in this vicinity should be reminded that the Argonne Drive Bridge which crosses over Herring Run west of Harford Road remains closed to traffic. Commuters are advised to follow the detour routes listed below.


Detours:

∙ Westbound Cold Spring Lane traffic will be detoured right on Harford Road, left on Echodale, left on Hillen Road/Perring Parkway back to Cold Spring Lane.


∙ Eastbound Cold Spring Lane traffic will be detoured left on Hillen Road/Perring Parkway, right on Echodale, right on Harford Road back to Cold Spring Lane.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:08 PM |
        

May 20, 2010

MARC spending over the years

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. caught my attention recently when he said he would pull the plug on light rail for Baltimore's Red Line and the Washington suburban Purple Line and focus spending on, among other things, rehab of MARC.

That got me to wondering about the relative levels of spending on MARC during the first Ehrlich term and the O'Malley years. Here are the totals for both capital and operations spending, provided by  the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Fiscal Year                 Total Investment in millions (000)

FY 2003                 $  71,509

FY 2004                     76,944

FY 2005                     76,708

FY 2006                     97,488

FY 2007                   101,622

FY 2008                   144,831

FY 2009                   195,314

FY 2010 (Projected)       162,099   

Fiscal years begin July 1. The first fiscal year of a governor's term (FY2003 for Ehrlich, FY2007 for Martin O'Malley) generally reflects a combination of that governor's decisions and his predecessor's.  The second fiscal year is a better reflection of that governor's priorities.  The fiscal 2010 figure may be incomplete.

What do these figures mean? MARC riders (and others) are welcome to weigh in.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:45 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: MARC train
        

Bicyclists have a lot going on starting tonight

The Baltimore--Washington region's bicyclists have a full calendar of events coming up over the next few days, starting with an organizational happy hour of the fledgling Baltimore Bicycle Alliance this evening at Koopers Tavern, 1702 Thames Street in Fells Point.

 Sponsors hope the social event, which runs from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m.,  will help lead to creation of a group that can be a force in working for bicyclists' interests.

Tomorrow is Bike to Work day in the Baltimore area, sponsored by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. Bicycle commuters will be gathering in locations around the metro area to bike into work together. At least 15 bike convoys are expected. Meet-up locations include:

Anne Arundel Co/Annapolis - City Dock, Annapolis
Baltimore City - War Memorial Plaza at City Hall (100 N. Holliday St.)
Baltimore County - Courthouse Square (400 Washington Ave, Towson)
Carroll County - Westminster
Harford County - Government Center (220 S. Main St, Bel Air)
Howard County - The Mall in Columbia (by Sears Service Center, 10300 Little Patuxent Parkway)

Registration for the rallies preceding the bike-in starts at 7 p.m. at most locations, though some may differ.

Sunday will bring the BikeJam at Patterson Park with pro riders, food, beer, kid activities and a bike and health expo.

Also on Sunday, the Bike DC Washington and Arlington Community Bike Ride, which will involve multiple events starting as early as 7 a.m. for bicyclists and street closings that could affect motorists in Washington and its Virginia neighbor. There will be a 19-mile bike ride for those with superior stamina, with short cuts for those who don't want to pedal as far.

The street closings include:

In the District of Columbia
• Pennsylvania Ave. NW from 7th Street to 14th St.- 6:30 - 11 a.m.
NOTE: Neither 7th Street NW nor 14th Street NW WILL NOTE be closed during the event.
• Pennsylvania Ave. NW from 15th to 21st St. - 7 - 9 a.m.
• Whitehurst Freeway from 21st St. to Key Bridge - 7 - 9:15 a.m.
• KEY BRIDGE - 7 - 11 a.m.
In Arlington, Virginia
• George Washington Parkway northbound from the Memorial Bridge to the Chain Bridge ramp - 6:30 - 11 a.m.
• Jefferson Davis Hwy from Rosslyn to Crystal City
(southbound lanes only) - 7:30 - 11:30 a.m.
• Columbia Pike westbound from Hwy 27 to the Air Force Memorial - 7:30 - 11:30 a.m.
• Crystal Drive northbound from 23rd St. to 12th St. - 7:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:06 PM |
Categories: Bicycles
        

MARC sets new ridership record

As Yogi Berra might say, is MARC getting so crowded that nobody rides it anymore?

The Maryland Transit Administration says the commuter rail line recorded a new high in daily ridership in April with an average of 34,617 boardings a day -- up 4.2 percent from the same month last year.

The MTA said ridership on the Penn Line was up 3.5 percent, while the Camden Line posted an impresive 8.9 percent jump. Boardings on the Brunswick Line, which runs between Washington and West Virginia, grew 3.1%.

MTA Administrator Ralign T. Wells pointed to passenger growth at BWI Marshall Airport as one of the factors in MARC's growth.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:28 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: MARC train
        

May 19, 2010

Governor will approve bicycle 3-foot rule

Gov. Martin O'Malley is planning to sign a bill Thursday that will require drivers to maintain a 3-foot buffer zone between them and a bicyclist while passing. The measure passed late in the General Assembly session after a determined lobbying effort by bicycle advocates.

The measure also applies to vehicles passing motor scooters. Another bill to be signed clarifies when a bicyclist is entitled to use the main roadway instead of the shoulder.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:43 PM |
        

O'Malley to sign cell phone bill

Gov. Martin O’Malley is scheduled to sign a bill Thursday that  bans the use of hands-held cell phones while  driving in the state – enacting a measure that took more than a decade to pass the General Assembly.


At what is presumably the last signing ceremony of  his term – barring an unexpected special session in an election year – the governor approved a measure adding Maryland to what is still a short list of states that forbid chatting on a hand-held phone while behind the wheel of a vehicle in motion.


The bill was one of hundreds O’Malley signed at the State House event but it may be the one with the most direct effect on Marylanders’ everyday lives.


The compromise measure, which exempts devices that let drivers talk with their hands free, narrowly squeaked through the Senate along highly partisan lines but passed the House of Delegates with a solid bipartisan majority.

The compromise bill, which is significantly milder than the legislation that was introduced, provides a $40 fine for a first offense and $100 for subsequent violations but imposes no points on a motorist’s driving record for a first offense unless it contributes to an accident. Under the legislation, which takes effect Oct. 1, a violation is a secondary offense – meaning a police officer can only pull over a violator who is observed committing another offense, such as speeding.


The measure that passed is named after the late Del. John S. Arnick, a Dundalk Democrat who more than a decade ago launched what was then a quixotic effort to curb the burgeoning use of cell phones while driving. The bill was sponsored by Arnick’s longtime friend and  district colleague, Sen. Norman Stone, a Baltimore County Democrat who told colleagues he had been in a  crash in which the other driver had been distracted by a cell phone conversation.


The planned signing drew praise from advocates for safe driving, including David Nevins, co-chairman of the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation.


“We’re convinced that on Oct. 1, it becomes a much safer day in Maryland,” he said. “Talking on a cell phone in some cases approximates a .08 alcohol content, making it equivalent to drunk driving as far as people’s condition goes.”


A .08 blood-alcohol reading is the level under which a person is  presumed to have been  driving under the influence.


Nevins said his group would  have preferred a law making a violation a primary offense, but he expressed confidence that  the measure would have a significant effect on drivers’ behavior.


“Ultimately I think this is about a  culture change,” he said. “(It) needs to become apparent that we  are doing far too many things in our cars at 50-60-70 miles an hour.”


Nevins noted that the state’s law requiring seat belt use started as a secondary offense and was later strengthened so that police needed no other reason to make a traffic stop. Now, he said, Maryland’s seat belt compliance exceeds 90 percent.

(Readers who want to comment on the cell phone bill for possible use in a Sun article about the signing can email michael.dresser@baltsun.com. Please include name, hometown and phone number where you can be reached during the day Thursday.)

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:33 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

It's a good weekend to avoid the Wilson Bridge

Travelers headed south out of Baltimore this weekend should consider alternatives to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge because lane closings could back up traffic well into Maryland, highway officials say.

John Undeland, spokesman for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, said motorists can expect "major, major delays" on the southbound Capital Beltway because all but one lane of the four lanes of  Inner Loop will be  closed at the bridge across Cameron Run on the Alexandria, Va., side from Friday night to early Monday morning. Other sections will have two lanes closed.

Backups could extend 10-15 miles and last up  to 90 minutes, officials warned. The closings will  be in effect from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

 

The 1961 Cameron Run bridge is slated for replacement of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, which has already completed demolition of the old bridge over the Potomac River and construction of a new, wider span.

Underland suggested that motorists  heading south on Interstate 95 use the American Legion Bridge over the  Potomac on the western side of the Capital Beltway. Another alternative for those traveling to Fredericksburg, Va., and places south of there is to use U.S. 301 through Southern Maryland.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:30 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

May 18, 2010

Ehrlich would scrap Red Line, Purple Line light rail

The Sun's Julie Bykowicz reports from former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s small business round table in Montgomery County that the presumptive Republican challenger to Gov. Martin O"Malley would scrap the incumbent's proposals for light rail lines in Baltimore and the Washington suburbs.

Ehrlich told the group he go back to his plan for high-speed buses on the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and be "open to ideas" about Baltimore's Red Line. He said he would prefer to spend the money on the MARC commuter rail system and the Washington Metro -- not on these new light rail lines.

On an unrelated transportation matter, Ehrlich said he doesn't like the toll levels that have been approved for the Intercounty Connector, though he was not clear about whether or how he would change them. It was under Ehrlich's administration that the highway was approved as a toll road, though the actual rates were not set by the Maryland Transportation Authority until after a market study conducted under O'Malley.

In supporting rapid-bus service along the Purple Line, Ehrlich would be going against the preference of most local leaders in suburban Washington, where support for the Purple Line plan runs high in spite of a roughly $1.6 billion price tag.

The Red Line light rail plan has the strong support of Baltimore business and civic leaders but has aroused opposition in some neighborhoods, including Canton and Edmondson Village, where plans call for it to run on surface streets.The cost of that plan was recently revised up to roughly $1.8 billion.

The state has applied to the federal government for funding of the two transit lines  as light rail projects. If approved, the federal share of the cost would likely be 50 percent -- leaving Maryland to raise  the other half. The O'Malley administration has put off any decision on funding until its hears from the Federal Transit Administration on whether it will approve either project.

On the ICC tolls, Ehrlich could face a dilemma if he wins the election. If ICC tolls are cut, largely for the benefit of Washington-area users, it is not clear how the transportation authority could make up the lost revenue without raising tolls at its existing toll facilities -- including those in the Baltimore area.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:13 PM | | Comments (21)
        

Charm City Circulator Phase 2 (tentative)

The Baltimore Department of Transportation is cautiously looking at the first week of June for the launch of the second route of the free Charm City Circulator bus service.

Cathy Chopper, a department spokeswoman, emphasized that the target date for the start of the Purple Route has not been finalized. That route is expected to run from the Cross Street Market area to Penn  Station, intersecting with the existing east-west Orange Route from Hollins Market to Harbor East/Corned Beef Row.

Chopper said ridership on the Orange Route has been "fantastic" -- well in excess of original projections. But she said plans for a  third line, the Green Route, are "up in the air" -- with no estimated launch date. The Green Route would be a loop taking in Johns Hopkins Hospital, Fells Point, Harbor East and City Hall.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:52 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: City bus service
        

May 17, 2010

I-95 lanes in city to close this weekend

This will be a great weekend for using the Harbor Tunnel and Key Bridge and for avoiding the Fort McHenry Tunnel.

The Maryland Transportation Authority is planning a series of lane and ramp closings along Interstate 95 in Baltimore south of the McHenry Tunnel between Friday and Sunday. Major delays are expected along southbound I-95.

Depending on the weather, the authority plans to close the three southbound lanes of I-95 between Russell Street and Caton Avenue from 8 p.m. Friday to noon Sunday. It also plans to close the ramps from Washington Boulevard to southbound 95. Detours will be posted.

The closing will allow crews to perform emergency repairs on joints on southbound I-95 and to conduct inspections of the Washington Boulevard ramps.  The authority  is recommending that motorists heading for destinations south of Baltimore bypass I-95 and use Interstate 895. Drivers leaving downtown on Russell Street would be wise  to continue south on Maryland 295 and cut over to I-95 on the westbound Beltway.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:45 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Howard Transit has an attitude problem

Since our destination Saturday was a wine festival in Columbia, and my wife and I planned to do some tasting, it made sense to take advantage of our local transit service. So we hopped aboard the Silver Route at U.S. 1 and took a ride to Columbia Mall.

The ride was fine, and the improved buses were appreciated, but we came away with the impression that Howard Transit and its affiliated service, Connect-a-Ride, need  to stage an intervention with some of their drivers.

The problem was that the signs designating which route the buses at the Columbia Mall were serving weren't working. So the transit system had posted makeshift signs to indicate the route. Some of the drivers seemed to think those signs were so crystal-clear that riders had no business asking them which route the bus was serving. They made their feelings known with rude, sarcastic answers.

Sharon Smith, director of customer development for Central  Maryland Regional Transit, which runs the two bus systems, said there have been problems with the bus route signs. But she said drivers are expected to deal with questions politely.

"We certainly don't tolerate that type of answer,"  she said.

The transit agency certainly should not -- and neither should County Executive  Ken Ulman. It's an election year, and when you're riding the bus, that driver is the face of his administration.

It's a shame that such behavior tarnished the experience because transit is more important to the county than many residents realize. The buses we rode were well-used, mostly by people who appeared to be traveling to and from their jobs.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:46 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local bus lines
        

Howard Transit service on the chopping block

Howard County will hold a public hearing next  Tuesday on a series of service cuts, as well as a fare increase, that County Executive Ken Ulman has proposed to deal with rising costs at a time when money is scarce.

If the changes announced by Howard County's locally operated transit agency are adopted, the base fare would rise from $1.50 to $2 -- compared  wiith the $1.60 charged by the Maryland Transit Administration.  The agency would also eliminate three routes and diiscontinue all Sunday service.

The county will hold a public hearing on the changes May 25 at 7 p.m. at the Ascend One Building, 8930 Stanford Blvd. in Columbia.

The routes Howard Transit would eliminate include the Blue Route, which connects the River Hill Village Center with Columbia Mall. That change would leave Clarksville with no public transit service. Also on the chopping block are the Red Express and Yellow Express routes. The express routes offer limited-stop service along the Yellow Route between Columbia Mall and Ellicott City and the Red Route between the mall and the Columbia Gateway-Dobbin Center area of east Columbia.

Sunday service would end on the five Howard Transit routes where it is now offered: Green, Brown, Red, Orange and Silver. Fares would also increase from 50 cents to $1 for reduced-fare riders. Users of the agency's bus and van services for the disabled would also lose Sunday service and face a fare increase to $2.50.

Sharon Smith, director of customer development for Central Maryland Regional Transit, which operates Howard Transit and Connect-a-Ride, said the routes marked for elimination have had relatively small ridership totals. The Blue Route, which offers nine rides a day Monday-Friday, averages only 17 passengers a day, she said.

But for Arna Clark of  Columbia, the Blue Route is the only way to get to her job at the Wendy's in Clarksville. Clark, who has no car and catches the bus near Howard County General Hospital, was collecting signatures at Columbia Mall Saturday to protest the proposed cuts.

"We live in a rich county. There's no excuse," said Clark, who added that she would have to quit her job if the route is discontinued in July as planned.

Ulman has proposed level funding for Howard Transit as part of an effort to hold the line on taxes. Smith said other costs have increased, forcing the agency to look for savings.

Smith said riders on the two express routes will still be able to get to the same  locations using the Red  and Yellow routes. She said Sunday ridership averages less than 200 on the five routes.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:34 AM |
Categories: Local bus lines
        

May 14, 2010

SHA to reroute traffic at 695-295

The State Highway Administration will close a ramp from northbound Maryland 295 to the southbound Beltway in Anne Arundel County for as many as three nights next week to replace a sound wall panel.

Highway crews will begin the work Sunday night, when they will close the ramp at 10  p.m. and  keep traffic detoured until 5 a.m. The $40,000 project involves repair of damaged sound panels  and installation of new traffic barriers at the site. The project is expected to be  complete by the end of next week if weather permits.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:53 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

May 13, 2010

Eastern Ave. ramp to close temporarily

The Maryland Transportation Authority plans to close the ramp from westbound Eastern Avenue to southbound Interstate 95 tonight and tomorrow night from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. for repaiirs to the concrete bridge deck. A detour will be posted.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:26 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

York Road bidge work to force closings

The State Highway Administration will close a section of York Road north of Shawan Road at night next week to rehabilitate an aging bridge over Western Run.

The bridge will be closed Sunday through Thursday nights starting at 10 p.m. and continuing until 5  a.m. the following mornings. Access to the north and south sides of the bridge will be restricted to local traffic.

The SHA said the closures will  help it speed replacement of the parapet wall on the historic bridge, which dates to 1917, while keeping the road open to traffic during the day.

The highway agency plans to close southbound York Road in that area after the school year ends June 19. Traffic will be detoured to Interstate 83. The $275,000 project is expected  to be completed by Aug. 15.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:10 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

May 12, 2010

Baltimore parking agency: Motorcycles welcome

Some downtown Baltimore parking garages follow a no-motorcycles policy -- and some of them actually enforce it -- to the chagrin of local bikers. But city-owned garages  are an exception, according to the Baltimore Parking Authority.

Tiffany James, special assistant to the executive director of the authority, said the city has no policy excluding motorcycles from its 15 garages. That's the good  news for bikers. Tha bad is that James found at least one city-owned but privately managed garage with no-motorcycle signage, and it wasn't entirely clear whether other contract operators were barring bikes.

Motorcyclists are invited to click on the list of city-owned facilities and let Gettting There know whether they have encountered obstacles to parking at any of  these garages. Please include an email or telephone number where you can be reached.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:32 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

Slate asks: How fast should ambulances go?

Slate Magazine is carrying an article, well worth reading, questioning the conventional wisdom on the importance of ambulances getting to the hospital as fast as possible with all the lights ablaza and signals whooping.

It's a good piece, but I think it misses one  important point that bolsters the authors' case: Over the decades, there have been improvements in the training of EMTS, the equipment on ambulances, GPS systems and communications with emergency room physicians (not that the improvements are evenly distributed).

In some case, the critical interval would seem to be the time it takes to get the EMTs to the patient rather than the time it takes to get the patient to the hospital. Those folks can do a lot to stabilize a patient while communications with the emergency room physicians. In view of the well-documented dangers  of speeding through traffic, it would seem the critical lesson is that ambulances should speed through traffic only when vitally necessary. And judgments of necessity need to be reviewed peiodically to see whether science and technology have overtaken old assumptions.

Any thoughts from the medical side of this issue would be welcome. On the traffic side it's a no-brainer: The fewer speeding ambulances, the safer, and perhaps drivers would be more attentive if it weren't routine.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:34 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Preakness road closings announced

The Preakness Stakes is associated with many hallowed traditions in Baltimore: Black-Eyed Susans (both in flower and liquid form), the Running of the Urinals and the Dashing of the Triple Crown Hopes. Also among them is the Closing of the Roads, a traditional traffic nightmare for local residents.

The Baltimore Department Transportation just put out a news release listing those closings, which Getting There will pass along with the suggestion that readers make full use of public transit too avoid such hassles:

The Baltimore City Department of Transportation today announced the road closures and traffic modifications in effect for the 135th running of the Preakness Stakes which will take place on Saturday, May 15, 2010 at Pimlico Racetrack. Gates will open at 8:00 a.m. and patrons attending the annual event are urged to carpool or use public transportation.

Patrons driving to Pimlico Racetrack should park at commercial lots and avoid parking in area neighborhoods. All posted parking restrictions will be strictly enforced and vehicles parked in violation will be ticketed and towed. Vehicles which are towed during the event will be relocated to Cylburn Avenue just south of Northern Parkway. Citizens with questions concerning the location of their vehicle should call 311.

 

Motorists traveling throughout northwest Baltimore may experience delays and should be on the watch for pedestrians while driving.
The following streets will be closed to through traffic on Preakness Day:
Saturday, May 15, 2010 – 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
∙ Southbound Jones Falls Expressway exit ramp to eastbound Northern Parkway. Motorists will be redirected to the Cold Spring Lane exits.
∙ Cylburn Avenue from Northern Parkway to Greenspring Avenue

Saturday, May 15, 2010 – 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
∙ Southbound Jones Falls Expressway exit ramp to westbound Northern Parkway. Motorists will be redirected to the Cold Spring Lane exits.
∙ Westbound Northern Parkway from Falls Road to Greenspring Avenue
The following special traffic modifications will also be in effect:
Thursday, May 13, 2010 starting at 10:00 p.m. until Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 8:00 p.m.
∙ Rogers Avenue – One way westbound from Winner to Park Heights
Avenues
∙ Winner Avenue – One way northbound from Hayward to Rogers Avenues
∙ Manhattan Avenue – One way eastbound from Winner Avenue to Pimlico
Road
∙ Whitney Avenue – One way westbound from Pimlico Road to Key Avenue
∙ Sulgrave Avenue – One way westbound from Stuart to Highgate Avenues
∙ Rockwood Avenue – One way eastbound from Key to Berkeley Avenues
∙ Simmonds Avenue – One way southbound from Rockwood to Manhattan
Avenues
∙ Woodcrest Avenue – One way northbound from Northern Parkway to
Rockwood Avenue
∙ Merville Avenue – One way southbound from Glen Avenue to Northern
Parkway
∙ Berkeley Avenue – One way northbound from Whitney to Glen Avenues
∙ Stuart Avenue – One way northbound from Northern Parkway to Sulgrave
Avenue
∙ Rusk Avenue – One way southbound from Whitney Avenue to Northern
Parkway
Thursday, May 13, 2010 starting at 10:00 p.m. until Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 9:00 p.m.
∙ Rogers Avenue – Closed to traffic from Winner Avenue to Northern
Parkway
Saturday, May 15, 2010 from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
∙ Hayward Avenue – One way eastbound from Park Heights to Winner
Avenues
(more)
Saturday, May 15, 2010 from 3:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.
∙ Pimlico Road – One way northbound from Northern Parkway to Ken Oak
Road

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:59 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

MTA lists Preakness options

A reader had a reasonable inquiry about the avaialability of transit service to the Preakness on Saturday. Not long after that, the Maryland Transit Administration sent me the following news release answering those questions:

 (BALTIMORE, MD) May 13, 2010 – By taking MTA’s Local Bus, Metro Subway, or Light Rail services to Pimlico Race Course, Preakness fans can relax and avoid traffic delays and parking hassles.

On Saturday, May 15, 2010 shuttle buses will run between the Rogers Avenue Metro Subway station, the Cold Spring Lane Light Rail stop and Poly-Western High School to accommodate fans. All shuttle service will run from 8 AM until 2 PM and resume after Preakness (10th race) has been run until approximately 7:30 PM. Since each rail or bus boarding requires payment of a fare, riders are encouraged to purchase Day Passes for $3.50 ($1.20 for seniors and people with disabilities with MTA-issued identification).


The best transit options to Preakness are as follows:

 

From Towson-Lutherville-Timonium-Hunt Valley-Southern PA

Take Light Rail to Cold Spring Lane stop; transfer to connecting Shuttle Bus to Pimlico.
From Glen Burnie-BWI Marshal Airport-Linthicum-Severna Park-Annapolis

Take Light Rail to Cold Spring Lane stop; transfer to connecting Shuttle Bus to Pimlico.
From Downtown Baltimore

Take Metro Subway from Charles Center or Lexington Market to Rogers Avenue Station; transfer to connecting Shuttle Bus to Pimlico.
From Owings Mills-Reisterstown-Glyndon-Old Court-Milford Mill

Take Metro Subway to Rogers Avenue Station; transfer to connecting Shuttle Bus to Pimlico. Additionally, Local Bus routes 27, 91, 44 and 54 (via Park Heights Avenue) also stop near the
track.

Local Bus fare is $1.60 one-way or $3.50 for a Day Pass, $1.20 S/D Day Pass.
For general information on MTA service, visit the MTA website at www.mta.maryland.gov. Customers can also call the MTA Transit Information Center Monday through Friday from 6 AM to 7 PM at 410-539-5000 (TTY 410-539-3497) or 866-RIDE-MTA.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:11 PM |
        

May 11, 2010

Maryland called 'worse than Texas' for bicyclists

Seth Guikema of Timonium sentGetting There an email that makes  some uncommonly good points. Here it is in a slightly edited-down form:

I have been a bike or bike/train commuter for at least the last 17 years living in 4 different states (including other cities bigger than Baltimore) and 2 countries. My current commute involves biking in both the county and the city with a light rail ride in between. Baltimore City drivers are some of the worst I've seen when it comes to giving appropriate respect and space to bikes on the roads, even worse than Texas.

County drivers seem better. I applaud the new rules, but rules are only as good as enforcement. The police force needs to step up and enforce the rules of the road, for both drivers and cyclists. In the couple of years that I've lived in Baltimore, I've had cars try to run me off the road, spout profanity-laced tirades at me because I "should not be on the road," and chase me. I've contacted the police with the information, and I have not yet received a single follow-up.

I know Baltimore police are stretched thin, but what is the point of passing new rules if they can't be enforced? It's good for public education I suppose, but that only lasts as long as it is covered in the news.

Of course, this goes both ways. There are a lot of idiots on bikes that choose to ignore the rules of the road too. They give the rest of us a bad name. They should be ticketed for running red lights and stop signs, biking the wrong way on one-way streets, weaving through traffic, and riding on sidewalks in business districts. The police need to step up and enforce those rules too.

If we want to have any hope of achieving energy independence or of seriously addressing climate change, we need to address our collective addiction to automobiles. Bikes can and should be part of that solution, along with real, meaningful transit options. But until the roads are safe for cyclists, those of us making it our primary form of commuting will be a small minority.

The new rules are a step in the right direction, but they need to be backed up by meaningful enforcement. Thank you for helping to shine a light on this problem. Hopefully people are listening.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:42 PM | | Comments (10)
        

Rules of road: Bicycles may ride abreast -- sometimes

Several readers have written in with the impression that any time they spot bicycle riders side-by-side in the same law, they're seeing a violation. Not so.

Here's what the Maryland Drivers Handbook says the subject:

 Riding single file on roadways or trails is safer, but you may ride two abreast if not impeding traffic.

That's all it says, but the unwritten corrollary to that would  be that once two bicyclists cruising down a little-used road sense a vehicle coming up  behind then, they should quickly fall into single file to let the car or truck pass. It's a metter of simple courtesy.

Drivers, meanwhile, need to hold on to their patience long enough to let the bicyclists complete that maneuver. Most will do so in a reasonable amount of time.

If they don't, the horn is not the answer. (Actually, horns are almost never the answer to any driving problem.) If the bicyclists are daydreaming, a horn blast can startle them and cause them to lose control. If they seem to be willfully delaying a driver, a dirty look upon finally passing should suffice.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:54 AM | | Comments (4)
        

Downtown workers: Don't linger Friday

Downtown workers might want to lay the groundworrk for an early departure Friday, because starting at 6 p.m.the streets could become more of a mess than usual.

The city Department of Transportation is warning that it will impose a series of lane closings and parking restrictions that evening for the Preakness Parade of Lights, which goes from Market Place and Pratt Street to Hopkins Place.

The curb lane of Pratt Street and market Place between Pratt and Water streets will close at 6 p.m. and remain shut down at 10 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., the curb lane of Lombard Street will be closed between Hanover Street and Howard Street. Also closing from then until 10 p.m. will be Hopkins Plaza between Baltimore and Lombard streets.

At 8:15 p.m. Pratt Street will be shut down between President Street and Howard Street, while Hopkins Plaza  and Sharp Street will close between Lombard and Conway streets.

It sounds like a good reason to take light rail or Metro  if you go downtown at all.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:58 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

May 10, 2010

Passing a bicycle: Here's the rules

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion about the rules of the road when it comes to motor vehicles are bicycles. So every once in a while Getting There will pass along a nugget of wisdom from the Maryland Driver's Manual.

What follows needs  to be updated in one respect: As of Oct. 1, the 3-foot clearance mentioned below will be the law, not just a suggestion. (Boldface added by the blogger.)

Passing a Bicyclist
When passing a bicyclist, wait until it is safe and allow adequate
clearance (usually about three feet from the side of your vehicle)
and return to your lane when you can clearly see the bicyclist in
your rear view mirror. Do not use your horn to alert or alarm the
rider.
If you are unable to safely pass, reduce your speed, follow the
bicycle and wait for a safe opportunity to pass.
A bicycle should be operated as close to the right side of the road as
practical and safe
. However, cyclists are expected to use turn lanes.
Merge safely with bicycle traffic when turning. Do not make right
turns across the path of bicycle traffic.
It is common for an experienced
cyclist to reach speeds of 20-30 miles per hour and be closer
than you think.

The boldface items are added for the following reasons:

1. Several readers have written to me saying it is their practice to give bicyclists "a little toot" when they feel the rider isn't performing up to standard. It's funny how one person's little toot sounds like a full-blown honk to the tootee. The horn exists only to warn of imminent danger, not to chide, admonish, criticize or vent. And the last thing a bicyclist needs is to be startled by a horn blast.

2. The bicycle rider is not required to stay to the far right when there is debris on the shoulder or when the lane is so narrow that a car cannot pass safely. At times, it  is not only legal but recommended that a bicyclist occupy the middle of the lane. If you lose your cool about being delayed by a rider in the middle, you are in the wrong. Of course, the prudent and courteous bicyclist will move to the right and let the motorist  pass as soon as there's a reasonable opportunity. But it's the bicyclist who decides what's reasonable. For instance, bicyclists need momentum to go up hills. Don't expect them to pull over on an uphill grade just because a trailing driver is in a hurry.

3. Bold-faced because it's so important, and so many drivers make this mistake with fatal results.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:39 PM | | Comments (10)
        

Motorcycle sales on Sunday in Arundel OKd

Thanks to Stephen Hunter of Hunter Adworks for pointing out one of those little laws passed by the General Assembly this year that we otherwise overlooked. It's House Bill 393, which makes it legal for a dealer to sell a motorcycle on  a Sunday.

Gov. Martin O"Malley signed the bill last week, extending the  freedom to sell motorcycles from Glen Burnie to Deale as of June 1.

Now if you weren't aware it was illegal for dealers  to sell motorcycles on a Sunday, don't feel bad. I wasn't aware of it either. What's most puzzling is why such a goofy remnant of the state's old blue laws ever remained on the books as long as it did. It ceratinly wasn't because the public was clamoring to be protected from Sunday motorcycle sales. The bill, sponsored by the county House delegation (and by motorcyclist-Senator John Astle in that chamber) was approved unanimously in both chambers.

But that's only half the story.

What's truly remarkable is what the bill doesn't do: Free dealers in the rest of Maryland  to sell motorcycles or any other vehicles on a Sunday.

Still in effect is this tidbit of legal lunacy:

 (d) Except in Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties, and  except as provided in subsection (g) of this section, a new or used car dealer may not sell, barter, deliver, give away, show, or offer for sale a motor vehicle or certificate of title for a motor vehicle on Sunday.

A dealer who violates this section can be fined up to $10,000.

That subsection (g) mentioned above now reads:

(g) In ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY AND Worcester County, a dealer may sell, 19 barter, deliver, give away, show, or offer for sale a motorcycle, as defined in § 11–136 20 of the Transportation Article, or certificate of title for a motorcycle on Sunday.

So that leaves 18 counties, plus Balltimore city, where it is illegal to sell a motorcycle on a Sunday. In 21 of those jurisdictions, including Anne Arundel, you still can't sell a car on the first day of the week. (Arundel does have its own exemption for camping trailers  and mobile homes.)

So why doesn't the legislature just eliminate this type of absurd regulation entirely? Why not let any dealer who wants to sell a legal vehicle do so any day of the week in whatever county he or she does business?

Generally, it's because the regulated industry wants to be regulated. It's a peculiar form of restraint of trade where the dealers in a county decide they'd rather  have the day off than do business. Obviously if one dealer opens on a Sunday, they all  have to open on Sunday for competive reasons, so they need a  law to enforce their rest day. So these restrictive laws end up getting peeled back one county at a time, one type of  vehicle at a time.

If these laws were truly religion-neutral, they would merely require that a dealer close one day a  week -- letting Jewish dealers close Saturdays or Muslim dealers to close Fridays. How they could stand up to constitutional scrutiny is something you'll need a lawyer to explain.

Anyway, the motorcycle dealers of Anne Arundel are apparently pleased by this partial, limited blow for freedom. Hunter sent out a new release quoting Bill Phillips,  general manager of Harley-Davidson of Annapolis.

"It means a lot for our business," he said.  "In the past, we had to turn away business and ask people to come back on Monday.  It made it hard for the customer.

"Our motorcycles are a passion, a hobby, and a lot of fun.  So being able to sell on Sundays now allows us to help people ride away on their dream any day of the week. We have always been open on Sundays, anyway.  But now, we get to not only sell clothing and accessories, we get to sell Harley-Davidsons," he said.

That does sound like fun. So if you live in the city or Baltimore County or Harford County (or any of Maryland's other blue-law) counties and you're thinking of buying a bike, head for Howard or Anne Arundel and spend your money where the government will let you do so any day you choose. (And tell your local dealer you stopped by Sunday but found they were closed.)

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:26 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads
        

May 7, 2010

Family member of bicycle crash victim responds

My Getting There column last Monday in the print edition of The Sun, concerning the need to respect the rights of bicyclists on the road, received one of the strongest responses since the column began.

 Many were from motorists who vigorously disagreed and who essentially pointted to bicyclists as miscreants who needllessly clog the roadways. But other, more favorable responses came from bicyclists and from the family members of bicyclists who were killed in collisions with motor vehicles.

Here's one email, from Fran Leonard of Elkridge, that I though was worth passing on:

Thank you for your article 'Sharing the road with bicycles is hardly a hardship'.   My children's father/step father was struck and KILLED by a driver of a four wheeled vehicle on May 4th, 2006 and died the next day.  He was KILLED by someone who has never been caught or punished for this CRIME.  SHAME on the people who feel riding a bike is inferior to them driving a car, van, truck or whatever other thing it is they drive.  They have no respect for others much less themselves or else they would be more considerate.  They are bigoted, self righteous people who think only of themselves.  Our grandchildren will never know the love and compassion he had for his family and others.  He never hurt anyone and he surely didn't deserve to die that way.  The person/persons who ran him down had to have known they hit someone or something didn't even stop, if they had he may still be alive today.  It doesn't matter why bicyclist ride on bikes, whether it's to go to work, out of need, pleasure or a Lance Armstrong wantabe.  They deserve to be on the road as much as anyone else.

 

 

 
Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:48 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Bicycles
        

Union chief blasts D.C. Metro on safety secrecy

Jackie L. Jeter, president of Amalgamated Transit Uniion Local 689 in Washington, just threw a little thunderbolt in the direction of the safety-impaired Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority regarding its openness about safety issues in the aftermath of last summer's nine-person fatality on the Red Line.

When is WMATA going to learn that stonewalling the union is counterproductive? I was almost going to call it a strategy, but it's unclear that the Lords of WMATA have any idea that is.

Since last June’s fatal Metrorail crash, Metro has added bricks to its wall of secrecy about safety issues. This week alone, I learned about two near-collisions on Metrorail from the news media, not WMATA.

As president of the union representing nearly 11,000 Metro workers, I have asked WMATA repeatedly to alert ATU Local 689 to safety incidents when they occur. But Metro continues to ignore the union’s request. I am demanding the following:

• WMATA adhere to the agreed upon protocol of notifying the union immediately when a safety incident occurs
• WMATA provide a status report within 24 hours of its safety investigations
• A union representative be present when a worker involved in an incident is being questioned
• WMATA issue a blanket notification throughout the system so that all workers are alerted to any safety breach
• Train speeds not exceed 40 miles per hour until Metro has resolved the train circuit issues

Each day, Metro workers face the potential risk associated with repeated safety lapses.  The frontline workers have a huge stake in creating a reliably safe transit system.  They must be critical partners in the development and implementation of safety measures and procedures.

The members of Local 689 stand ready to help put Metro on a safe course.  We only need the opportunity to do so.  So once again, we are calling on WMATA to keep the union informed of incidents and to seek our input on solutions. We are Metro’s strongest safety ally.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:04 PM |
Categories: WMATA/D.C. Metro
        

Mysteries of Howard intersection unraveled

A western Howard County reader, who preferred to remain unidentified, had a detailed question abbout why the inttersection of Marriottsville Road and Route 99 is configured as it is. The State Highway Administration came back with an equally wonky answer.

I'll pass along both, wiith the caveat that it's probably far too much information for anyone who doesn't live out that way or travel there frequently. That is -- unless you want to get a flavor of the sheer complexity of the decision-making that goes into the design of any intersection.

As you can see, whatever action is taken at an intersection produces a rreaction that is not always predictable -- even for professional engineers. The reader wrote:

There is an intersection less than a mile from my home that my family and I use daily.  It is located at Md. Rt. 99 and Marriottsville Rd.  When we moved here in 1977 it was a 4-way stop sign.  Then, over the years, it graduated from a yellow blinker (due to citizens tired of the constant accidents petitioning) to, finally, a stoplight. 

 

There have been scads of accidents there over the years.  Traffic has gotten really bad there now, particularly at rush hours.  People travelling to and from Carroll County use it as a thoroughfare alternative to Rt. 32, which is getting ever more congested, as both roads run north to south.
    The problem now is that there is a green arrow to turn left from northbound Marriottsville Rd. onto Rt. 99 (west).  The arrow is operational at all times EXCEPT when it's needed the most!!!  Which is from about 4 P.M. to about 6:30 P.M., PRIME rush hour time.  The traffic really backs up, sometimes to the Rt. 70 bridge.  Plus, the visibility turning left without the arrow is tricky.  Southbound Marriottsville Rd.
at the intersection has 2 major lanes, and cars stacking up in the left lane wanting to turn onto Rt. 99 east block the view.  Particularly if SUVs are there, they make it impossible to see what's behind them.
YET..............this is what ticks me off, the green arrow works every other time, including, say, 2 in the morning and all night.
    About 4 years ago, the SHA had a community meeting to discuss widening Rt. 70 from Rt. 29 westward, and I attended.  I cornered one of the SHA guys to ask why the green arrow light wasn't on at rush hours.
He said it was deliberately timed to not be on during rush hour, and I remember some lame-brained excuse why.
    This is beyond belief.  It's a no-brainer to have the green arrow on at rush hour to expediate travel during the busiest time of day.  The line of cars is unreal.
    I'm asking you, please, if you can help rectify the situation.  Can you ask and find out why SHA doesn't have it on, and if they could reset the timer?  Thank you.

So SHA spokesman David Buck talked with the local engineers and came back with this reply:

The reporter is inquiring as to why we do not operate the signal as a split-phase during during the p.m. peak hours.  With lighter traffic volume on S/B Marriottsville Rd in the p.m., this is first we have heard there is an issue for N/B drivers to make a left-turn.  While we would not operate Marriottsville Rd as a split in the p.m. peak for the capacity reasons described above, there may be an opportunity to provide a brief leading left-turn arrow on N/B Marriottsville Rd, similar to what is done in the morning.   
 
Our engineers will gather some additional data and have a recommendation in about a month.
 
On a related matter, the Howard County Department of Public Works is working on a project to widen Marriottsville Rd from US 40 to north of MD 99 in conjunction with several developments in the area.  The County's plan would provide a 5 lane section along Marriottsville Rd extending just north of MD 99.  Once this project is constructed, there will be separate left-turn lanes on N/B and S/B Marriottsville Rd at MD 99 and the signal will have E/P left-turn phasing at all times. 
 
You may want to contact Howard County about their timeline.
 
 
Again, I apologize for this being so lengthy but it does indicate:  we have made adjustments over the years in response to customer concerns; this is an extremely busy intersection and any tweaks will have effects on other movements; and we are going to investigate your reader's concern and see if there is something that can be done to help.

And there you have it:  Everything you could want to know about this intersection and more.



 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:46 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Next week's Hatem Bridge closings called off

Closings that had been scheduled on the Thomas Hatem Memorial Bridge next week have been called off because the Maryland Transportation Authority completed one phase of the current deck replacement project early.

The westbound lanes of the bridge, which takes U.S. 40  over the Susquehanna River, had been scheduled for closing overnight Monday through Thursday to set the grid deck for part of the project. But that work has been completed, making the closings unnecessary.

That doesn't mean the end of regular closings on the bridge, because the redecking itself isn't expected to be finished until fall 2011.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:31 PM |
Categories: Maryland toll facilities
        

Bay Bridge congestion season kicks off

It's SpringFest in Ocean City, and with that celebration comes the opening of the peak congestion season on the Bay Bridge.

The Maryland Transportation Authority is warning motorists  to expect heavy traffic and possible backups at peak hours on the bridge through Sunday because of SpringFest  and a full calandar of other activities on the Eastern Shore.

Shore-bound folks who live in the Annapolis and Washington areas might have little choice but to travel off-peak or endure long delays,  but Baltimoreans are geographically blessed with the  alternative of using a route around the head of the bay -- particularly if they're headed for the Delaware resorts or north  Ocean City.

If the Bay Bridge is your only reasonable option, the authority urges that you travel at off-peak hours: Friday after 10 p.m.; Saturday before 7 a.m. and between 5 and 10 p.m.; and  
Sunday between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. and after 10 p.m.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:05 PM |
Categories: Maryland toll facilities
        

May 6, 2010

Bike bills get warm reception at City Hall hearing

A package of bills intended to promote bicycling in Baltimore received a generally favorable reception from a City Council's Community Development subcommittee at a well-attended hearing this afternoon.

For the most part, ciity  agencies were supportive of the five-bill package, though some suggested amendments. Several dozen bicyclists attended  to show support and to offer suggestions for relatively minor tweaks to be bills.

Subcommittee Chairman William Cole said one of the measures, a bill that would require certain developments to include a minimum number of secure places to park bicycles, had to be pulled from the agenda because it involves zoning issues that have to be advertised in advance. He said that bill will be rescheduled for a subsequent hearing.

The subcommittee agreed to schedule a work session to consider the specific language of amendments to the remaining four bills.

One issue that must be dealt with is  how to treat motor scooters, which under state law might have to be given access to lanes that are also open to bicycles. Councillwoman Mary Pat Clarke, sponsor of the package, expressed concerns about writing explicit language into the city ordinance allowing such vehicles in those lanes. The city Law Department agreed to draft language addressing her concerns while complying with state law.

The testimony sometimes wandered off the topic of the bills but was nevertheless interesting. Joan Stato of Fells Point used the occasion to raise concerns about the new bus/bike llanes on Pratt and Lombard streets.

"I don't know who came up with the idea of bicycles and buses ahhring a llane,  but it's crazy," she said.

Carol Schultz  of Elsrode Avenue testified that bicycle-friendly policies would attract young professionals to live in the city and help low-income Baltimoreans get to work without the cost of a monthly bus pass.

"It benefits everyone," she said.

Clarke ended the hearing with an admonition to the bicyclists in attendance:"Remember to wear helmets and be  safe."

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:09 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Bicycles
        

Here's yet another reason to avoid Delaware

As if the Delaware Turnpike toll plaza wasn't enough of a motivator, there's yet another reason to avoid the Blue Hen State: You could get bonked by falling concrete on Interstate 95.

The Associated Press reports that the Delaware State Police are enforcing intermittent closing of I-95 because of chunks of concrete falling from an overpass. The problem led to a two-hour closing of the roadway Thursday morning.

Delaware Department of Transportation engineers are assessing the problem, and additional closings are possible, police warn. It appears to be an excellent excuse to stay on U.S. 40 and avoid  the turnpike tolls or to shun Delaware entirely.

Here's how to get to the Northeast from Baltimore without going through Delaware, home of  what  might be the most overpriced toll road in the United States.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:37 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads
        

State begins Mt. Airy highway project

The State Highway Administration has launched a project of improvements to Route 27 in Mt. Airy as well as a ride-sharing lot off that road north of Interstate 70.

The $2.4 million project, which began this week, is expected to continue into spring 2011. As part of the project, the SHA will extend the two through lanes of northbound 27 from Ridge Road to the north of the Twin Arch Road intersection with Park Avenue in the Carroll County section of the town.

During the project, the SHA will close single lanes Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. On Fridays, the closings will occur during the same daytime hours but from midnight to 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings.

Also to be added is a dedicated right-turn lane from northbound 27 to Twin Arch and dedicated left-turn lanes from southbound and northbound 27 onto Center Street. Other changes will improve access too the ride-sharing lot, resurface Route 27 and make intersections compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:18 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Trespasser killed by Amtrak train south of BWI

The following just came in from the Maryland Transit Administration's MARC notification service:

An Amtrak Acela Express train has struck a trespasser between BWI and Odenton.  All service on the Penn Line is suspended until further notice.  Train 520 will hold at Odenton.  Train 427 will hold in Baltimore.  Updates to follow.

It was followed later with:

Penn line service has been restored with delays 30 - 45 minutes to trains 422,427,520 and 424. Train 427 is not canceled out of Baltimore.

The Associated Press is reporting that person was in fact killled by the train. There is no identification at this time. Amtrak is warning of continuing delays this afternoon in the Northeast Corridor.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:01 PM |
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads, MARC train
        

MTA seeks community views on bus routes

The Maryland Transit Administration is seeking public comments on its proposals to add two express bus routes and make changes to five other lines.

The MTA has scheduled three  public meetings at which it will provide information and answer questions about the proposed changes, which include the addition of QuickBus routes offering limited-stop service siimilar to that on the existing Route 40. A new Route 46 would roughly follow  the existing Routes 5 and 10 between Cedonia and Paradise Avenue. A No.  47 line would track the No.  15 line between Overlea and Walbrook Junction.

The MTA will also seek riders' views on changes to Routes, 4, 6, 10, 15 and 91.

The meetings will be held:

--Tuesday, May 11 at the Enoch Pratt  Free Library, 1303 Orleans St., from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

--Thursday, May 13 at Ben Secours Community Support Center, 26 N. Fulton St., from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

--Monday, May 17 at the War Memorial Buillding, 101 N. Gay St., from noon to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:56 AM |
Categories: MTA bus system
        

May 3, 2010

MTA to compete for share of $775 million

The Maryland Transit Administration plans to put in a bid for a share of a $775 million grant program announced today by the U.S. Department of Transportation for bus systems around the country.

Henry Kay, the MTA's deputy administrator for planning, said the MTA will compete aggressively for a grant under the Federal Transit Administration program. He said the program can be used to finance either bus acquisition, improvements in bus maintenance facilities or transit planning.

Kay said that while no decision has been made about the nature of the MTA's grant request, the agency is likely to seek money to improve its facilities for maintaining the growing number of hybrid diesel-electric buses in its fleet.

Kay said that when a transit agency competes for such grants, it's important to scale the request to the overall level of the program. Thus, a $100 million project such as the replacement of the Kirk Division -- a big item on the MTA's long-term wish list -- would probably be too much to propose.

"We have to look at what we have ready to go and what we can move quickly on," Kay said.

The MTA official predicted that competition for funds will be more intense than for rail projects because "everybody has buses."

"Everybody and his brother is going to be applying for this money," Kay said.

The FTA said it will judge transit agencies' proposals based on how well they address the issue of keeping their systems in good repair. The deadline for applications is June 18, and awards are expected to be announced in late summer.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:04 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: MTA bus system
        

Steel plates on Bay Bridge are gone

Maryland Transportation Authority photo

The last of the sections of the new deck of the  westbound span of the Bay Bridge is installed.

Regular users of the Bay Bridge may notice a big improvement in the ride this week: The steel plates that were used as a temporary roadway surface during the seemingly endless deck replacement project on the westbound span are gone.

According to Maryland Transportation Authority spokeswoman Kelly Melhem, the last of the plates was removed Sunday morning -- along with the signs warning motorcyclists of their presence.

The absence of the plates is a sign that the 3 1/2-year deck replacement project is drawing to a close. The last of the 156 deck sections on the through-truss  part of the  span was iinstalled last month. The only remaining work to be completed, apart from "punch list" items,  is what is known as "grinding and grooving" the surface to provide a smoother ride.

Melhem said that once that work is completed -- within the next few weeks --- the deck replacement work will be complete and the overnight closings that have been a regular event on the bridge since 2006 will be a thing of the past. (There will still be closings from time to time, because the bridge is a coonstant work in progress, but they won't be as frequent.) 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:06 PM |
Categories: Maryland toll facilities
        

Some 'Get Motivated' and the rest of us get stuck

A motivational speaking event at the First Mariner Arena Tuesday is expected to tie up downtown traffic and jam parking garages in the central business district for most of the day.

According to the Baltimore Department of Transportation, thousands of people are expected to attend the "Get Motivated Business Seminar" at the arena, increasing the normal volume of traffic downtown. Officials are predicting traffic tie-ups during the morning and evening peak communting hours as a  result of the event, which will last between 8 a.m. and 4:45 p.m.

The transportation department is hoping that seminar attendees will get motivated to take light rail to the event, noting that free parking is available at several stations, including North Linthicum, Cromwell and Patapsco Avenue.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:35 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

Local transportation agencies increase vigilance

Regional transportation agencies have increased vigilance in the aftermath of the weekend's failed bombing attempt in Manhattan and are urging travelers to report suspicious activity, but otherwise seem to be taking the incident in stride.

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport spokesman Jonathan Dean said passengers might see some signs of stepped-up security as they pass through the terminals. Other security measures, which he declined to spell out, will not be visible to travelers, he said.

But Dean said the airport anticipates no significant impact on travel. "There  is no indication of a specific threat here  at BWI," he said

The Maryland Transit Administration has sent out bulletins to its police officers and is  urging riders to report anything suspicious, said Maj. Fred damron, deputy chief of the MTA police.

At the Maryland Transportation  Authority, which operated the state's toll facilities, police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Greene said officers have been informed of the New York vehicle bomb attempt and are will remain vigilant for suspicious vehicles or packages. But Greene said there is no known connection between the New York incident, in which an SUV packed with explosives was found in Times Square, and Maryland.

In Washington, a spokesman for the Metro system said police would be sending extra patrols through the kiss-and-ride lots. Steven Taubenkibel, a spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said Metro  police would also be conducting additional patrols in some stations.

But Taubenkibel said he had no information on any specific threat involving the Washington transit system.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:52 PM |
        

State puts BRAC project out for bid

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley announced Monday that the state is accepting bids with a $43.5 million road project in Harford County related to growth at Aberdeen Proving Ground resulting from the base realignment and closing process known as BRAC.

The State Highway Administration will accept technical proposals through May 24 for the interchange project  at U.S. 40 and route 715 in Aberdeen The project is expected to eliminate the need to make a U-turn when getting on northbound 715 from eastbound U.S. 40 by upgrading the current configuration to a full interchange.

With Maryland's Transportation Trust Fund ailing from a revenue shortfall, few major highway projects have been moving forward in recent months. According to the Transportation Department, the Aberdeen project is getting off the ground because of an appropriation obtained by the state congressional delegation.

Construction is expected to begin this fall.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:40 AM | | Comments (1)
        
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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

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