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October 28, 2010

Beer truck guy wonders why he has to take long way

A local beer truck driver named Fred  had a question about why he can use some Baltimore County  roads and not others to deliver the suds:

 I drive a beer truck and always wondered why on Rts. 702 and 43 they have sections where they don't allow trucks over 5 tons. They want the trucks to use Back River Neck Road and Bel Air Rd. instead of the limited access roads. What is the thought process to take trucks through crowded roads where there are more pedestrians, side streets and potential accidents?

Not being privy to the thought processes of the State Highway Administration, I asked spokesman Charlie Gischlar to look into the  matter. As usual, Gischlar found the answer:

 

When each of these roadways was planned, designed and constructed, agreements were reached with the communities about large trucks that would not be permitted for reasons of safety, noise and a general recognition of community livability.
 
MD 702 is nearly all residential.  MD 43 was not to serve as a bypass to the Beltway, nor was it intended to serve the White Marsh Mall from the west.  Trucks may use parts of it to gain access to US 1 (Belair Road) from the west, but the residential areas to the east of US 1 large trucks are restricted.

This is a good reminder that not all answers can be discerned  simply from driving on a road. Motorists are not in a sposition to know the history  and background  of the negotiations that got the road built in the first place. What looks like sheer  stupidity might have been the only way to get something done. (The intersection of Route 100 and U.S. 29 is another example. The goofy interchange design was forced by the need to protect an  historic property.)
 

Unfortunately there's no room on road signs for complex explanations of the the back story of highway construction. Maybe highway gurus could come up wiith a pithy, universally recognized  symbol that conveys the message: "Trust us, there's a reason for this nonsense.")

And, no, as important as it is to get the beer to its destination, the state can't go abrogating its deals with local communities.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:05 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 27, 2010

More MARC woes force delays, cancellations

It looks like another bad night on MARC, which seems to be having a rough week aftter a period of relative calm. Here's what the MTA to say:

Camden Line--Train 852 (5:51pm departure from Washington) is still in Union Station with a mechanical problem.  Updates to follow.

 Brunswick Line passengers--Delays are easing on the Brunswick Line--trains 879, 881, 895, and 883 may experience delays of up to 15 minutes.  Currently, trains 879 and 881 are on-time.  Trains 875, 877, and 893 are west of Rockville and are operating 10-35 minutes late.

Penn Line--Train 439 (5:25 departure from Penn Station to Washington) is operating ten minutes late at Odenton due to a mechanical problem in Baltimore.  When this train arrives in Washington, it will likely need to replace its locomotive.  This will result in a delayed departure for train 440 (6:40pm departure from Washington to Baltimore).  Updates will follow.  Passengers at Union Station are asked to remain inside the station until train 440 is announced for boarding. 

 

Meanwhile, The Sun's Sam Sessa, reports from aboard a Penn Line train between Baltimore  and Washington:

The 525 pm train from baltimore to dc (penn line) was delayed until 535, and then left promptly at 530. I'm on it now. There's little lighting and no air conditioning. They're calling it "running dark."

For a MARC train, that one isn't doing so bad.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: MARC train
        

Loch Raven trail dispute spurs 'emergency' meeting

Bike Maryland, the organization formerly known as One Less Car, has called what it describes as an "emergency" public meeting to discuss trail restrictions in the woods surrounding Loch Raven Reservoir.

The meeting, apparently  prompted by some run-ins between mountain bicyclists and Baltimore Department of Public Works rangers, is scheduled for 7 p.m.-9  p.m. TThursday night at  the Timonium Fairgrounds' Fasig-Tipton Building.

 

This appear to be another chapter in a long-running dispute between mountain bikers, who want free acccess to the trails in the woods  surrounding the reservoir, and the department, which  wants to preserve the quality of the drinking water supply.

Carol Sildorff, executive diirector of Bike Maryland, said she fears the department is unilaterally moving to  enfoce a series of  1998 rules that had been shelved for a dozen years. She says bikers should have access to trails and denies their  activities are causing erosion -- pointing to deer, invasive species and illegal dumping as the main threats to  water quality.

Department spokesman Kurt Kocher said the problem isn't the dozen miles of legal trails and forest roads where he says bicycles are welcome. He said the problem is about 34 miles of unauthorized trails that have been cleared in the woods surrounding the  reservoir. He said rangers are issuing warnings -- but no  tickets yet --- on those unauthorized trails.

According to Kocher, DPW spokeswoman Celeste Amato is planning on attending  the meeting to outline the department's position. So it  could  get interesting, whether your interest is water quality or trail access for mountain bikes.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:57 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Off the roads
        

Charles Street lanes to close

Some lanes of South Charles Street will be closed during the day tomorrow and Friday and overnight Sunday for utility work, the city Department of Transportation says.

The city said lanes on Charles Street will be closed between Conway and Pratt streets from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow and Friday, as well as between 11 p.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads
        

One Less Car changes name

There's one less One Less Car in Maryland. The pro-bicycle, pro-hiker, pro-transit group has decided to narrow its focus and call itself Bike Maryland, with a mission of promoting bicycling and bicycle safety in the state.

Carol Silfdorff, who will continue as executive director of the new group, said the  Bike Maryland name reflects that narrowed focus.

"We certainly want less cars but I think this name is much more positive and it's easier for folks  to understand what we do.  It's easily recognized," she said.

One Less Car has been known as the sponsor of the annual Tour du Port bicylcing event and also as an effective advocate for bicycle-related legislation in the Maryland  General Assembly and Baltimore City Council.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Off the roads
        

Free taxis offered for Halloween revelers

If you have grave reservations about drinking and driving over Halloween weekend, you might be interested in a better way to get home from your favorite bucket o' blood that night.

AAA Mid-Atlantic, the State Highway Administration and Yellow Can will once aggain sponsor their Tipsy? Taxi! program that provides free cab ride for people who want safe passage home after indulging in a few (or not  so few) drinks this Saturday and Sunday night.

Free rides worth up to $50 will be available to patrons of Baltimore city  bars and  restaurants between 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday nights until 4 a.m. the following mornings. Passengers are responsible for any blance beyond that fare. The minimum age is 21. In Fells Point, where many streets will be  closed  those nights, riders willl have to meet cabs at Thames and Caroline streets on Halloween night.

For rides, call 1-877-963-TAXI. Try to call before closing time to avoid long waits.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 26, 2010

MARC trains delayed after body found near tracks

At least four MARC trains on the Brunswick Line were delayed this evening after a body was found near the CSX tracks in Rockville.

Maryland Transit Administration spokesman Terry Owens said the MTA was notified about 5:45  p.m. that a body had been found near Nicholson Lane and Randolph Road in Rockville. He said three trains  were stopped at Washington's Union Station  and another halted at Garrett Park.

Commuters on the train at Garrett Park were able to  walk to a Montgomery County Ride-On bus stop and catch rides from there, Owens said. He said the Montgomery  County and  CSX police are investigating the incident, which he said did not appear to be a train strike.

Today's discoveryy marked the third time this month a person has been found dead on or near  Maryland railroad tracks used by MARC. On Oct. 3, a Pennsylvania man committed  suicide on the Amtrak tracks near Middle River. On Oct. 13, another man died in a reported suicide on the CSX tracks in Rockvillle.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: MARC train
        

SHA offers reflective vests for trick-or-treaters

The State Highway Administration is offering to lend reflective vests to trick-or-treaters to make them  more visible and Halloween safer this Sunday.

The SHA will distribute the  vests free of  charge at SHA facilities throughout the state on Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The vests, which will be lent out on a first-come, first-serve basis, must be returned by Nov. 5.

The lending program is part of the  SHA's annual Vests for Visibility campaign. Vests can be picked up at the locations listed below:

 

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

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

Baltimore County
Hereford Shop
306 Mount Carmel Road
MD 137 & I-83
Parkton, MD 21120
410-329-6752

Owings Mills Shop
9130 Dolfield Road
Owings Mills, MD 21117
410-363-1315

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

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

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

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

Cecil County
Elkton Shop
2024 E. Old Philadelphia Road
Elkton, MD  21922
410-398-1565

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

Dorchester County
Cambridge Shop
750 Handley Road
Cambridge, MD 21701
410-228-4977

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queen Anne’s County
Centreville Shop
111 Safety Drive
Centreville, MD  21617
410-758-0700

Talbot County
Easton Shop
8265 Ocean Gateway
Easton, Maryland  21601-0745
410-822-3525

Washington County   
Hagerstown Shop
I-70 & MD 65
18320 Col. Henry Douglas Drive
Hagerstown, MD 21740
301-791-4790
 
Wicomico County
Salisbury Shop
660 West Road
Salisbury, MD 21802
410-677-4050
 
Worcester County
Snow Hill Shop
5630 Market Street
Snow Hill, MD 21863
410-632-0511

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:15 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads
        

Possible sabotage incident calls for answers

Jeff Quinton at the Inside Charm City blog is asking some pointed questions about delays on the MARC Penn Line Monday morning that may have been linked to malicious destruction of Amtrak signals. Let's just say the accounts from the MTA and Amtrak don't quite add up.

Quinton and the riding public deserve accurate and timely information. If delays were the result of vandalism, theft or sabotage -- as hinted by the MTA in a Twitter message -- that's not something thgat should be concealed from the public. At the very least, the  MTA should be able to explain its tweets. If it can't back them up, maybe it should pull the plug on its Twitter account.

And If Amtrak has a problem with unauthorized access to its tracks, disclosing that could put the public on alert.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 25, 2010

Amtrak: Cause of delays under investigation

Amtrak confirms that there were delays on its tracks between Baltimore and Washington this morning because of signal problems but says the cause has not yet been determined.

The Inside Charm City blog had reported that sabotage might have been the cause.

Amtrak spokeswoman Barbara Petito did not rule out sabotage as the reason a  wire came down in the Seabrook-New Carrollton area at 8:42 a.m. Neither did she confirm the report. She said Amtrak Police were still investigating why the wire came down and set off a signal warning that the track ahead was occupied.

Petito said two Amtrak trains were delayed -- one by five minutes, another by 13. She said she had no information about MARC delays. She noted that that of copper wire has been a problem for Amtrak of late.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:11 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads, MARC train
        

Blog reports possible Amtrak sabotage

Jeff Quinton at the Inside Charm City blog is reporting that some delays on the MARC Penn Line this morning might have been the result of sabotage of some Amtrak signals.

Quinton reports  that tthe MTA sent out a message on Twitter confirming that there had been "malicious destruction" of Amtrak signals.

Meanwhile, the MTA is reporting that CSX is having signal problems at Greenbelt on the Camden Line, causing delays of 20-35 minutes. No word on a cause, but the Camden Line usually doesn't require a saboteur to make it late.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads, MARC train
        

Are electronic signs causing Beltway slowdowns?

Ira Geller of Baltimore has noticed traffiic slowing on the west side of the Beltway each evening, and he thinks he knows why. He's not the first to reach the conclusion that electronic message signs are the culprit. As you'll see from the reply, the State Highway Administration is not dismissing his concerns out of hand. Here's what Geller had to say:


I travel the inner loop of the Balto. Beltway every weekday from Arbutus towards Towson at around 6PM. The traffic is always slow, 15 -30mph from Catonsville to Woodlawn. Motorists usually slow down to read the digital message board in front of Martin's West Caterers. Then, as soon as drivers pass the board the average speed goes up to 40 - 45 mph.


If you don't believe me, drive thru this area of 695 during rush hour.
How can we get the State Highway Administrator engineers to realize the problem with these boards exists and turn them off during rush hour traffic?  Do we really need a message board to tell motorists that the traffic is heavy and that it might take a little longer to get to their destination?

Dave Buck, spokesman for the SHA, provided a detailed response. It seems  thhe SHA is interested in whether its messages are always providing a service rather than a hindrance.

In general, it is difficult to know whether traffic slows because of a specific message or in this instance, because all traffic on I-70 going toward the inner loop is merging with all of the inner loop traffic right before this overhead message sign near Martin's West.

Every afternoon, traffic on the inner loop slows as the I-70 and I-695 traffic merges, then it tends to free up again toward I-795 before slowing near Greenspring Avenue.  This caused inner loop delays back into Catonsville and EB I-70 delays back toward Howard County. 

The brightness of the information on the sign also may play a role as at 6 p.m. in mid to late fall when it is dark, the message appears much brighter, which could  cause some delay vs. late spring into summer when the sun is much higher and the sign message fades into the background more.

Overall, we have had similar questions ever since SHA began using overhead variable messages signs more than 20 years ago back -

-  Does the message contain a valuable piece of information to motorists?
-  Is the message clear and concise?
-  Can the message be read at highway speeds?
-  Is the message causing additional delay?

These overhead signs are one of SHA's most visible means to convey information to the motorist while they are on the road and our goal is to make the messages meaningful and clear without causing any delay. 

Over the years, we have added features included flashing beacons on top of the signs to highlight a particularly significant incident or backup, using rotating safety messages to remind motorists about certain laws, adding LED signs to replace the old style flip-disk technology, travel time messages, Amber Alerts, game-day messages, Homeland Security messages, event info, bridge height restriction info, etc...

As a side note, SHA is hoping to partner with the Univ of MD on a study to research this exact question - do the overhead DMS (Dynamic Message Signs) slow traffic specifically as a result of the message or are there other factors (merging traffic, sun glare, regular delays) that play a significant role as well.  Our goal is to begin a research project with U of Md in the next year or two, if funding allows.

We appreciate Mr. Geller's email and if he is able to provide a specific date, we would be more than happy to take a look at the specific message and see if there is anything that can be done to minimize any additional delay.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:43 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 22, 2010

Harford college to hold Hurd walk/run

Harford Community College will hold its second annual Heather L. Hurd 5K walk/run Nov. 20  in honor of a former student there who was killed in a crash caused by a distracted driver in Florida. Her death in 2008 prompted her father, Russell Hurd, to join the successful effortd to persuade the Maryland General Assembly to curb texting and cell phone use while driving.

Last year about 250 people participated in the event, which goes toward book scholarships for students at the college. This year's participants can register the day of the event at the college's Susquehanna Center from 7 a.m to 7:45 a.m. For information click here or call 443-412-2449.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads
        

Officials to mark Charles Street byway status

Charles Street, Baltimore's premier north-south artery, will have its day iin the spotlight Monday when state, city and Baltimore County officials gather at Mount Vernon Place to celebrate the road's designation as a National Scenic Byway.

The selection actually took place last year, but officials are just getting around to throwing a party in Charles' honor.

County Executive Jim Smith, Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley and city Transportation Director Khalis Zaied will be among the speakers at a news conference at 11 a.m., which will be folllowed by a "min-fair" from noon to 1 p.m.

When you think about it, Charles Street is a worthy candidate -- starting in gritting  South Baltimore and passing through downtown, Mount Vernon, Charles Village, Johns Hopkins University, Roland Park and into Baltimore County as far north as Lutherville. Dozens of historic buildings have their address on the street. That's pretty scenic.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 21, 2010

MTA: CharmCard a work in progress

JIn a recent email, Jerry McCann of Lutherville raised some interesting points about how the MTA's new CharmCard works  on the light rail. We posted it on this blog.

Now  MTA spokesman David Clark has replied on behalf of the agency. Here's what he had to say:

Machines at the Lexington Market Northbound Light Rail Station are temporarily unable to accept CharmCards due to underground utility problems.  Additional notices placed on the TVM’s inform patrons that the machines currently accept “Cash Only” and CharmCard access will be available soon at that location. 

Light Rail round trip purchases are unavailable for the CharmCard due to the Light Rail barrier-free fare system.  When passengers touch their CharmCard to a TVM, a fare is deducted and can be electronically verified by Light Rail fare inspectors.  Since Light Rail does not have faregates to track passengers leaving the system, CharmCards must be activiated at a TVM for each trip.

The MTA is reviewing the ways it provides information to Light Rail CharmCard customers.  This may include changes to the website, brochures and signs.

In fact, the MTA could have and should  have done a better job of explaining these quirks  of the  system up front. All these lapses seem to reflect an inability to see things   from the customer's point of view. When will folks at  MTA think beyond the Schaefer Tower?

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:03 PM | | Comments (6)
        

October 20, 2010

City explains efforts to synchronize lights

Baltimore resident Benjamin I. Feldman wrote a letter last week to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, which we posted on this blog, outlining his concerns about the synchronization of the city's traffic signals.

This week, the city Department of Transportation replied on the mayor's behalf. Have a read and see what you think:

Dear Mr. Feldman:

Thank you for your observations and your concerns about the timing of the traffic signals in the City of Baltimore.   The Department of Transportation through its Traffic Division has conducted an investigation into your concerns and offers the following comments. 
 

One of the functions of the Traffic Division’s Traffic Management Center is to monitor and make adjustments to the traffic signal system to provide a balanced system that serves the needs of motorists, mass transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists.  This mission is achieved in part by the synchronization of the traffic signals along various corridors.  This effort has, in recent years, resulted in improving the efficient movement of traffic based on the time of day and roadway capacity.  For example, along those gateway corridors that were optimized there has been a reduction in travel time of 12 % and reduction in the number of stops by 11 %.  Similarly, for the downtown corridors there has been a reduction in travel times by 20 % and a reduction in the number of stops by 20 %.    

Nonetheless, the timing adjustments are still required every few years or even sooner depending on changing traffic demand and patterns.  In some instances we prefer slightly longer travel times to promote safety and encourage greater use of mass transit and bicycles such as along Pratt Street in the downtown area.  In other locations the need to provide more time to pedestrians is essential, so major roadways crossing MLK, Jr. Blvd. may experience slightly longer travel times.

To monitor how well our traffic signal system are performing, travel timing runs are performed along various corridors to measure the time it takes to move from one point to another.  The data collected is used to measure the effectiveness of the signal timing along those routes and will assist us in making adjustments and repairs to improve the traffic flow and minimize delays.  Signal optimization is sometimes adversely affected by equipment breakdowns, so the need to make repairs and improvements are an ongoing process.  The Department of Transportation has recently awarded a contract to replace faulty detectors at the intersections along some the major corridors throughout of the City.  As such repairs are made, delays along the corridors will be reduced since fewer side streets will get green time when no vehicles and/or pedestrians are detected.         

In your letter you mentioned two problematic areas.  The first area was the Charles Street corridor.  The signals at Charles Street and St. Albans, the exit from the Cathedral of Mary our Queen, and the entrance to Friends School are vehicular and pedestrian demand intersections.  These signals should not change until the vehicular detectors or pedestrian pushbuttons are activated. 

The second area was Northern Parkway.  There has been extensive roadwork in this area, including rebuilding and installing new traffic signals on Northern Parkway between Park Heights and Falls Road.  During the construction the vehicular detection system was impacted, which along with the reduced capacity associated with lane closures, negatively affected traffic flow.  Upon completion of this project, the traffic signals will be equipped with the state-of-the-art detection system and motorists should notice significant improvements.       

Again we appreciate your sharing your oberservations with us and by all means, please continue to do so.  If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact Mr. T.J. Bathras, TMC Manager, Traffic Division, at (443) 984-2199


Department of Transportation
Traffic Division

So what do readers  think?

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:16 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: On the roads
        

No 2-way traffic on westbound Bay Bridge this P.M.

The Maryland Transportation Authority has suspended two-way operations on the Bay Bridge this afternoon because of rainy weather -- creating the likelihood of eastbound delays during peak travel hours.

The authority normally opens one lane to the westbound span to eastbound traffic to ease the evening commute for residents of the Eastern Shore. But in bad weather, it generally does not permit two-way traffic on that span, restricting eastbound traffic to the two lanes of the original bridge. The authority said it could reverse the decision if the weather improves.

NOTE: This notice is a rerun of a previous announcement.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:54 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Clinton expected to bring heavy traffic to Federal Hill

The Baltimore Department of Transportation is warning motorists to expect congestion and parking restrictions tomorrow afternoon during former President Bill Clinton's visit to Federal Hill for a political rally.

The department said parking restrictions will be in effect along Warren and Battery avenues between noon and 5 p.m. Department spokeswoman Kathy  Chopper said no road closings  are planned, but she said riders on the Charm City Circulator Purple Route, which runs along Light Street into Federal Hill, could experience some delays.

Clinton is expected  to speak at a rally with Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and other Democrats on the Nov. 2 ballot. The city urged motorists to use alternate routes where possible.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:20 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: City bus service, On the roads
        

October 19, 2010

SHA to publicize 'move over' law

The State Highway Administration plans to roll out billboards around the state over the next couple months informing Maryland drivers about a new law requiring drivers to move over a lane or slow down considerably when passing en emergency vehicle by the side of the road with its flashing lights on.

The law, which took effect  Oct. 1, has not received nearly as much publicity as another one banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said the agency will try to  make up for that by erecting a series of signs along major  roadways, starting with more rural roads in the state and  working toward the center.

"We want to really hit  it hard to  raise awareness of this," Gischlar said.

 

The spokesman said the SHA is  inclined to use conventional signs rather than variable electronic message boards to  alert people to the new law because of the difficulty of fitting the message in the electronic format and the potential for distracting drivers.

So far, the reports I've receive indicate that the Maryland State Police are issuing warnings about the new law rather than writing tickets. But  the police say that's not a formal policy and  that it's up to the officer's discretion whether to issue a $110,  2-point citation.

Prudence would  suggest that drivers make it a habit to comply with this law as quickly as they can. Police have wanted to see this law on the books  for a long time, and many officers have had the experience of nearly being bowled over while making a traffic stop. If I were in their shoes, I'd be eager to write some of these tickets.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:45 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: On the roads
        

Marylander elected to 3rd term at safety group

Maryland's Vernon F. Betkey Jr., an official of the State Highway Administration, has become the first person to be elected to a third term as chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Administration -- a national organization of state transportation officials working to reduce death and injuries on the nation's roads.

Betkey, director of Maryland's Highway Safety Office, will hold the position until the association's next general meeting in September.

The 25-year Maryland State Police veteran said the association's No. 1 goal over the next year will be passage of a  new, six-year federal highway reauthorization bill that includes increased safety funding. He identified distracted driving, pedestrian safety and aggressive driving as important emerging issue in addition to traditional causes such as promoting seat belt use and curbing drunk driving.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 18, 2010

BWI weather really has been lousy

As The Sun reported Saturday, BWI Marshall Airport's on-time percentages for both arrivals and departures have taken a tumble this year. February's twin snowstorms were a big part of the reason, but data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that weather was also a big factor this summer.

To put it bluntly, the weather this summer at BWI stank -- even when compared with nearby airports.

Nationwide, the percentage of delayed flights in which weather was listed as the cause hovered iin the 35-40 percent range in June through August. However, at BWI weather-related delays accounted for more than 50 percent of the total in both June and July and were about 45 percent in August. Even Washington's Reagan National Airport didn't come close.

Another measure, the percentage  of delays caused by the air traffic control system that are  weather-related, was even more stark. Nationally, the percentage of these delayed arrivals that are weather related hovers around 70 percent during the summer. At BWI this June, the percentage was almost 90 percent, and July wasn't much better.

There were other factors that influenced  Baltimore's fall to 17th in on-time arrivals and 26th  in on-time departures among 29 major U.S. airports ranked by the bureau. But summer storms were undeniably a factor. For departures, the summer brought on-time percentages of 72 percent in June, 70 percent in July and 75 percent in August. That's worse than the national averages and a little worse than the typical Baltimore summer.

But hot, stormy summers with a lot of flight delays are not unusual for Baltimore. BWI's on-time performance for departures typically dips into the 70s -- and sometimes into the 60s -- during the summer months then improves in the fall. September through November, the airport typically scores in the high 80s.

So when you take a look at BWI after eight months of the year, it's unlikely to  be a pretty picture. Its worst months are in the books and its best are yet to come.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel
        

Bridge demolition to cause delays on I-95

The State Highway Administration will conduct several traffic stoppages tonight and tomorrow night on Interstate 95 as it removes steel beams as part of the demolition of the Old Gunpowder Bridge to make way for the Intercounty Connector.

The agency expects to stop traffic on the interstate just north of the Route 212 interchange (Exit 29) three to four times each night for intervals of  about 15  minutes. The stoppages are  expected to occur between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. in the northbound lanes and between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. southbound. Variable message signs have been installed to warn motorists of the closings.

Overnight travelers would be wise to use the Baltimore-Washington Parkway or U.S. 29 as alternate routes.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:18 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 15, 2010

Md. gas prices up 16 cents since Oct. 1

Maryland gas prices, which remained stable through most of the summer and into September, have jumped 16 cents since the beginning of October to a statewide average of $2.79 for a gallon of unleaded, AAA Mid-Atlantic reports.

The increase is steeper that the 14-cent rise reported nationally since Oct. 1, though Maryland prices still lag the U.S. average by 4 cents.

According to AAA, the gas price increase has tracked the rise in the price of crude oil on world markets to more than $80 a barrel. AAA also called the recent weakness of the dollar "perhaps the strongest factor contributing to recent growth."

Ragina Averella, Maryland spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said prices in the state peaked at $2.90 on May 6. But fears that Marylanders would see a return of $3-a-gallon gas didn't materialize -- except in certain high-price markets -- and prices fell to as low as $2.58 around Labor Day.

Friday's $2.79 average was 34 cents higher than a year ago, but $1.28 behind the levels of this time in 2008, when prices broke through the $4 barrier.

Averella said most oil industry analysts do not expect to see dramatic increases over the rest of the year -- "barring any significant events."

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:37 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 14, 2010

CharmCard for seniors due in early 2011

This just in from the MTA website:

Based on card sales and fare purchases, MTA’s new CharmCard has been positively
received by full-fare customers.  The reduced-fare CharmCard for seniors is in the final stages of development, and is scheduled to be available in early 2011. 
When the Senior CharmCard is available the MTA will provide purchase information
at the MTA Reduced Fare Certification Office, at the Transit Store, on transit vehicles, and through direct mail.

 

Storm knocks out parking payment machines

This from the MTA  MARC website:

Attention BWI Commuters:   A storm knocked out the communication on all the cash payment machines at the BWI Parking garage. Signs have been placed on the machines  informing customers that they can pay at the machines with credit cards or at the exit with cash. The machines are expected to be out for about a month.

A month? That must have been one heck of a storm.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:02 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads, MARC train
        

Marathon to alter 24 bus routes

One of the charms of the Baltimore Marathon, beside the creative way it tests drivers' ability to cope with street closings, is the effect it has on public transit.

According to the Maryland Transit Administration. 24 of its local bus routes will be altered Saturday as a result of road closings associated with the marathon and its companion Baltimore Running Festival. Just put it down to the price you pay to live in a great American city rather than Palookaville.

The MTA said service would be affected on bus Routes No. 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10-13, 15, 19-23, 27, 29, 35, 36, 40, 48, 64, 91 and 98. Details can be found  at the MTA website.

 

The transit agency is urging riders to use the light rail and Metro, which won't be impeded by the race, to reach its staging area at Camden Yards.  Marathon and festival participants can take the light rail to the stadium area. Metro riders can get off at Lexington Market Station or Charles Center Station and walk to Camden Yards. (Subway riders can also transfer to light rail at Lexington Market, but it's probably easier too walk.)

 

Citizen tells mayor: Get lights synchronized

Benjamin I. Feldman, a self-described "concerned Baltimorean" from Homeland, believes the traffic lights in the city are perpetually out of sychronization and wrote Mayor Stephanie Rawllings-Blake with his concerns:

Dear Mayor Rawlings-Blake:

I write to ask your assistance to improve an aspect of life in our city.  Over the last several years, our traffic lights have become unsynchronized.  This is especially apparent when traveling on one-way streets that in past flowed easily.  At present Charles St, St Paul St, Calvert St, and Park Ave—to cite a few—have become completely hosed.  A light turns green, and one moves a block for the next light to immediately turn red.

This situation is made worse by bad timing at intersections.  For example, minor cross streets, that might carry little or no traffic, will hold the green for a long time while the major thoroughfare is blocked.  For example, this morning I traveled downtown at 6:00 am, when traffic should have flowed well.  I only have a drive of 7 miles, but even at that hour, it took 30 minutes because I went from red light to red light.  Traveling south on Charles Street, the light for the entry to Mary our Queen and then for entry to Friends School, both favored the cross street for many minutes even though not a single car used the cross street.  Those two lights alone consumed five minutes of the drive.  While it is true that at specific hours of the day or week, these intersections are active, the activity is specifically limited; it is not 24/7.

Other timing issues are deplorable.  If one travels west on Northern Parkway, the light at Falls Road is timed to favor eastbound travel.  The problem is with the timing for the left turn lane.  On any morning or afternoon, it takes at least five cycles of the light for westbound traffic to clear the light.

You are too young to remember that the famous “Barnes Dance” was developed in Baltimore, when our then-director of traffic pioneered the scheme for using one-way streets to allow traffic to flow smoothly.  Until recently, one could begin at the southernmost foot of Calvert Street and drive all the way to Guilford without stopping once; one only needed to drive at correct speed to maintain the synchronicity.  If one missed one light, one could immediately recycle into the flow.  Not now, not early or late.

In my present circumstance, I work for an hourly wage.  The hours I spend burning fuel at red lights do not translate into income for me or taxes for the city.  Only the oil companies benefit. 

Toward the end of Mayor Dixon’s tenure, the Sun reported that Baltimore had procured a new system to order our traffic flow.  Clearly this office has not been staffed or has not been staffed well.  The easiest way for you to confirm this is to drive around some on your own. 

Good traffic flow in a city is like healthy blood flow in a body.  The city is a living organic whole.  They way things are at present can be improved with the application of some intelligence and talent. 

I respectfully ask that you consider raising this issue with the appropriate members of your cabinet.

Sincerely,

Benjamin I. Feldman

 

Feldman's concerns  are well-expressed and deserve a response from the city. But one caveat to keep in mind is that nobody who gets a green  ever perceived the lights as being out of sync, while those stopped at a red frequently think so. (Have you ever heard anyone complain that the green light on the street they've been traveling lasted too long?)

That being said, with the exception of the existence of bicyclists, out-of-sync lights in the city are perhaps the most  common source of complaints received at Getting There. In past articles, I've passed along the candid admission from transportation officials that lights that are in sync don't  necessarily stay that way because of equipment glitches and other reasons. They depend on the public to report instances where lights have ceased to work properly.

What they've told me is that primal screams about citywide problems don't help much but that specific reports about where lights are out of sync and when can alert them to problems that otherwise  might have been overlooked for some time. They say  that calling those reports in to 311 will get action. Readers should taken them up on that offer -- and let Getting There know if they get no response.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:11 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: On the roads
        

CharmCard shows lack of charm on light rail

The Maryland Transit Administration's new CharmCard represents a significant advance for the agency, but light rail rider Jerry McCann of Lutherville hasn't found it all to be smooth riding. From what I've seen from my few rides on the light rail since the card's introduction, McCann makes some valid points -- especially about the problems in buying a round-trip ticket.

I thought you might want to hear from an early Charm Card adopter about how it works.  It's OK but less than charming.

The actual technology of the card itself seems to work well but there are some important information gaps in the literature that comes with the card and on the smartrip.com website about how to use it on the Light Rail.  It's important to keep in mind that Light Rail users have been trained to be ready to have their paper tickets and passes periodically inspected by uniformed "Fare Inspectors".  Within this context its important that MTA make sure Charm Card users know that they no longer need a paper ticket or pass on the Light Rail.  Fare Inspectors now carry a Charm Card scanner box that verifies that a rider has used the card to pay an appropriate fare.

Without that knowledge I assumed the Charm Card would act like a debit or credit card had been acting at the machines. With a credit card one selects the desired ticket, inserts a credit card and receives a fare ticket and, if requested, a receipt.  With the Charm Card one can still request a receipt but no fare card is issued.  That's electronically captured on the card for possible scanning on the train.  As a result I missed one train trying to figure out what I had done wrong or how to get my money back.  Neither is possible.  Instead I purchased a second fare and requested a receipt to make sure I didn't get ticketed if a fare inspection occurred.  Luckily there was a fare inspector on the next train who explained the new system to me claiming its all in the literature that came with the card.  It's not: I checked again last night.  We bought the card at a CVS drugstore for $2.50 and registered it online.  The literature in the envelope does not discuss Light Rail.

The information is also not on the website.  Light Rail isn't mentioned on the CharmCard page: http://mtacharmcard.com/howto/procedures.htm
On another part of the website the following not very informative statement appears:
"Light Rail: At the TVM on the right side of screen under SMART CARD select ‘Purchase Single-Trip Fare or Activate Pass for First Ride’. Select single trip fare or activate a previously purchased pass. Touch your card to the target. Your fare will be deducted or pass activated and verified." http://mtacharmcard.com/whatischarmcard/faq.htm#q7  This fails to explain that the typical Light Rail requirement of having a paper ticket no longer applies.

Another problem is highlighted in that statement.  One can purchase single trips but not round trips.  Since I'm a periodic rider of the Light Rail (2-3 days/week) weekly or monthly passes that expire with the calendar are no good to me but round trips are.  I had hoped that the Charm Card would make this process more convenient but now I need to purchase a ride every time I get on the train instead of just in the morning.

The final annoyance is that I get off downtown at the Lexington Market Station.  The ticket vending machines at the Southbound station are equipped for Charm Card access. That's nice but heading downtown I've already purchased a ride.  The ticket vending machines at the Northbound Lexington Market station which is one block North of the Southbound station are not yet equipped for Charm Card access.  So not being permitted to buy a round trip ticket I need to add a block to the walk to the train going home to purchase the ride back.  This may be fixed sooner or later but my experience with the Light Rail is that it is likely to be later.

Like I said, technology is OK but the experience is less than charming.

Jerry McCann

We'll let you know what the MTA has to say when we hear from them.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:13 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Light rail
        

October 13, 2010

Brunswick Line reopens after fatality on tracks

The Maryland Transit Administration reported at 6:06 p.m. that the MARC Brunswick Line has reopened after it was shut down for almost four hours because of an apparent suicide on the CSX-owned tracks on Randolph Road in Rockville.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: MARC train
        

Bicyclist says many drivers don't know 'Jack'

Every once in a while Getting There receives a reader comment that's so well thought-out and well-wriiten it's worth breaking out with a posting of its own. The following, from Dennis Eichenlaub of Columbia, is one of them. OK, so I guess it doesn't hurt that he basically agrees with my Oct. 8 Sun column on bicyclists' rights and responsibilities on the road. Unlike certain bicyclists, Eichenlaub seems to lack the persecution complex that prevents them from recognizing when someone's fundamentally in agreement with them.

Thanks for a very well balanced write-up on road cycling. If there’s anybody who doesn’t agree with what you wrote – car or cycle – they certainly should.
 
I discovered bike riding about 4 years ago. Now I ride about 2500 miles a year. Before July, I did most of my riding in northern Baltimore County. In July, I moved to Columbia and now I am discovering Howard County.
 
There are a few angry drivers. I call them all “Jack”. (If you think *everybody* is a safe and courteous driver, you don’t know Jack.)  But one of the really great things about riding around here is the safety and courtesy shown by most car drivers. I like to say that car drivers around here are better than Ivory Soap. As you may remember, Ivory Soap is 99 44/100% pure. In my experience, drivers in this area are much more than 99 44/100% courteous. I am always finding myself acknowledging some kindness or courtesy with a friendly wave. 
 

Your suggestion that bikers return the favor is spot on. I pull over for traffic whenever I can safely do so. But there are some times I am a “road hog”, and I would like the opportunity to explain why. First of all, riding a bike in heavy traffic is not fun, and do what I can to avoid it altogether. I get plenty of time in traffic driving my car, and I don’t need more traffic time on my bike. Both Baltimore and Howard County are blessed with miles and miles of back roads that are wonderful for biking. However, there are times when two very nice bike roads are joined only by a heavily trafficked road, and it often seems that these are exactly the roads that don’t have even a small shoulder (like Howard County 103),.
 
There are times when it is downright unsafe for a biker to ride to the right. For example, neither a bike nor any other vehicle belongs in a right-turn lane unless it is going to turn right. There is no signal that says “I’m in the right turn lane but I’m not going to turn right”. Cars (and trucks) generally assume that if they are in the right-turn lane, then there shouldn’t be anything even further on the right that blocks their turn. The Baltimore Sun reported two cyclists who died as a result of being run over by a truck turning right (one last year and one this). Both were ruled cyclist errors.
 
It’s amazing how often a road with a shoulder has that shoulder blocked. This could be a concrete “island” at an intersection, a traffic calming device, road debris that is nothing to a car but dangerous to a bike, etc. In any of these cases, a cyclist must carefully “take the lane” to safely get by the obstruction. I quickly learned to keep my eyes far down the road, and to be careful about giving up the lane. It’s even more dangerous for bikes to suddenly swerve into a lane than it is for a car.
 
A third time when it’s not always wise for a biker to pull over is when the pull-over area is fairly short and there is a line of traffic. If the cyclist pulls to the side, they will have to get back into the lane when the pull-over area ends. Pulling back into a stream of traffic can be quite tricky, as a car in the middle of the line may not even be aware there is a cyclist on the road. Even a large gap in traffic can be too small for a bike to pull back out after stopping. I have also experienced drivers who hesitate to pass when I pull over and signal I am prepared for them to pass me. As I approach the end of the pull-over area, this can result in a game of “reverse chicken”. I even had a couple of times when a driver didn’t want to pass because they had finally reached their destination and needed to turn right into the driveway or parking lot I was using to allow traffic to pass.
 
Finally, sometimes a shoulder is too narrow for a bicycle to use safely. When I “take the lane”, drivers understand that they have to move left to pass. Most drivers are very skilled at passing and do it safely. However, when I am riding to the right of that solid white line, most drivers assume they can safely drive normally in their lane. Any time cars are passing bicycles, that three feet of separation should be there. If the shoulder isn’t wide enough for the bike to be three feet away from the edge of the traffic lane, it isn’t wide enough for a biker to pull over and let traffic pass.
 
Ultimately, each driver is responsible for their own safety. That is especially true for bikers. Maybe someday the state (or county) will add a few feet of pavement to make a small shoulder so bikes and cars can easily share the road. Until that time, I want to thank all those wonderful Baltimore County and Howard County drivers. Thanks for sharing the road. I even have a message for Jack – get a grip before you hurt somebody.
 
Dennis

Of all the frustrations behind the  wheel, getting stuck behind bicyclists hardly ranks in the top 20. But some motorists seem to become downright rabid at the idea of being delayed by someone on a vehicle they regard as a kid's toy -- likely because  they haven't been on one since high school.

Quite a few of them write in expressing the wish that bicycles would disappear from every road in Maryland that lacks a bike lane or a shoulder. It's sheer fantasy, of course -- as if griping about the weather could abolish rain on weekends. The difference is that you don't hear "jack" about people taking out their precipitation frustration on the local weatherman. Unfortunately, Jack is out  there buzzing bicyclists whose riding style offends him.

No wonder there are bicyclists out there who come across as paranoid. There really are people out to get them.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:46 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Fatality shuts Brunswick Line at Rockville

Service on the MARC Brunswick Line has been shut down after a pedestrian was killed by a train on the CSX tracks this afternoon near Rockvillle, according to the Maryland Transit Administration.

A Montgomery County police spokeswoman, Blanca Kling, said an adult male was hit by a train at the Randolph Road crossing at 2:07 p.m. She said witnesses reported that the man jumped in front of a CSX  freight train. An investigation is continuing. Police have not yet released the man's identity.

MTA spokesman David Clark said MARC had established a bus bridge to meet passengers at the Rockville Metro station and take them to points farther west  on the line -- one branch of which runs to Frederick and the other to Martinsburg, W.Va. He said Metro will honor  MARC tickets.

Clark said the tracks, which are also used by Amtrak trains between Washington and the Midwest, are expected to reopen about 6 p.m.

The apparent suicide would be the second on Maryland tracks so far this month. On Oct. 4, 46-year-old Mark Young, 46, of York, Pa., killed  himself by getting in front of a train on the Amtrak Northeast Corridor tracks in Middle River.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads, MARC train
        

State, DOD reach deal on Fort Meade roads

The state of Maryland and the Defense Department have reached a critical agreement on traffic improvements in and around Fort Meade in preparation for an influx of new workers expected to arrive as a result of the base relocation and closing (BRAC) process.

The State Highway Administration and the Fort Meade command made a deal under which the state will provide $10 million for improvements to a gate on  the post that is considered a potential bottleneck when the work force at  the Defense Information Systems Agency -- located on fort grounds  -- expands under the BRAC process. Transportation officials are concerned that if the Rockenbach Road gate is not expanded, backups at the security checkpoint could cause traffic to  back up onto Route 175 to the north of  the post.

In return for the gate improvements, the federal government willl grant easements on base property allong 175 to allow the state to proceed with a long-term project to widen 175 from the  Baltimore-Washington parkway to Route 170 in Anne Arundel County. The swap will make 50-65 acres available to the SHA for the $350 million expansion of 175, one of the main corridors serving the fort.

The deal was announced at the fort Wednesday by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, chairman of the Governor's Subcabinet for Base Realignment and Closure.

Brown also said the state had secured funding for $4 million in other road projects designed to improve traffic flow around the fort. The administration added $3 million to its spending plans for engineering and design of improved intersections at 175 and Reece Road, Mapes Road and Charter Oaks Boulevard. The state also allocated $1 million to  study the traffic effects of the expansion of the Cyber Command on  Route 32, which runs along the southern edge of Fort Meade where the National Security Agency has its headquarters.

 

The establishment of the Cyber Command at Fort Meade is expected to eventually bring 21,000 jobs to the area.

The state's long-term plans call for a widening of a 5-mile stretch of Route 175. In the short term, the highway agency plans improvements at key intersections along that highway. Preliminary work at two of those 175 intersections, at Rockenbach Road/Ridge Road and Disney Rooad/26th Street, has already begun. Construction contracts are expected to be put out for bid later this fall.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:57 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 12, 2010

No injuries in Fort McHenry Tunnel fire, police say

A school bus caught fire in the Fort McHenry Tunnel this afternoon, closing six of its eight traffic lanes and causing significant traffic backups, but police said the blaze was extinguished without injuries.

Sgt. Jonathan Green, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said a school bus occupied by a driver and  an assistant caught fire about 4:30 p.m. in the left  northbound bore of the four-bore tunnel.

Green said the two occupants escaped the bus without injury. He  said there were no children on the bus.

The two northbound bores and the two lanes of the inside southbound  bore were closed, Green said.  He said the two lanes of the bore  where the fire took place will reopen after the vehicle is removed and the tunnel is inspected for structural damage. The other lanes reopened by 6:30 p.m.

Green said the vehicle became disabled in the southern half of the tunnel. The authority detoured drivers onto  the Beltway (the Key Bridge)  and Interstate 895 (Harbor Tunnel).  State Highway Administration video cameras showed a backup that appeared to stretch for several miles on northbound Interstate 95 approaching the tunnel.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:32 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Bus fire closes northbound Fort McHenry Tunnel

The Baltimore firefighters union reports a bus fire has closed the norhbound lanes of the Fort McHenry Tunnel. Here's the email the union just sent out:

Right now, YOUR Baltimore Firefighters are battling a fully involved bus fire INSIDE bore #3, northbound, of the Fort McHenry Tunnel.  There are reports of multiple victims with smoke inhalation. 

 

BOTH NORTHBOUND BORES OF I-95 ARE SHUT DOWN.  MAJOR TRAFFIC DELAYS SHOULD BE EXPECTED. Southbound lanes remain open and undisturbed.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities, On the roads
        

Bay Bridge makes list of scariest spans

Sun photo/Doug Kapustin

Just in time for Halloween, the Bay Bridge comes in at No. 9 on Travel + Leisure magazine's ranking this month of the world's 26 scariest bridges.

The magazine points to the tendency of storms to plow through the area and reduce visibility on the bridge to near zero. But the bridge hardly seems to keep up with the company it keeps on the list, which is rife with narrow, shaky pedestrian bridges over mountain gorges.

Travel & Leisure is entitled to its opinion, but I don't even rate the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge as the scariest bridge named after a former Maryland governor. I would award that honor to the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, which carries U.S. 301 over the Potomac River to Virginia. The anything-but-Nice Bridge earns that distinction with its steep slopes and narrow lanes, coupled with the knowledge that it's 70 years old.

Now the Bay Bridge is a good place to get pounded by the wind, but I'd rate the Francis Scott Key Bridge a little scarier on that score. For its condition, which has its scheduled for replacement if it can stay up long enough, the Fort Avenue bridge in Locust Point earns big fright points.

What do you think? Does the Bay Bridge have you spooked, or is there some other bridge in Maryland that you cross in your nightmares?

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:47 PM | | Comments (17)
        

Baltimore Marathon to bring road closings

Sun photo/Kenneth K. Lam

The Baltimore Marathon is in many ways a great civic event, but each year it brings a day of disruption to the city's roads and transit systems. It's just one of the things you deal with when you live in a big city, but feel free to gripe. Keep in mind, however, that many of the estimated 22,000 participants come from out of town, and they tend to bring their money with them.

Anyway, the city Department of Transportation has released its list of street closings for the race Saturday, which starts at 8 a.m. It's a long one, and you can check it by clicking below.

Baltimore Marathon to be held this Saturday
The Baltimore City Department of Transportation would like to advise motorists of the temporary parking restrictions and road closures that will be in effect for the 10th annual Baltimore Marathon, which will be held on Saturday, October 16, 2010 starting at 8:00 a.m. The 26.2 mile course will begin at Russell and Camden Streets. In conjunction with the marathon, the Carefirst/Blue Cross/Blue Shield Half-Marathon will also be held, along with the United Way 5K Run, the Legg Mason Team Relay and the T. Rowe Price Kids Fun Run. Approximately 22,000 people are expected to participate in this year’s events.


In preparation for the marathon, various parking restrictions and road closures will be implemented. Motorists should pay close attention to posted parking restrictions, as vehicles parked in violation will be ticketed and towed. Citizens with questions concerning the location of their vehicles should call 311.


The following parking restrictions will be implemented on Saturday, October 16, 2010:


∙ Linwood Avenue from Eastern Avenue to Fayette Street 12:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
∙ Eastern Avenue (north side) from Linwood to Patterson Park Avenues 12:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
∙ Boston Street (north side) from Aliceanna Street to Lakewood Avenue 2:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
∙ Lancaster Street from President Street to Central Avenue 4:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
∙ 33rd Street from Hillen Road to Guilford Avenue 4:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
∙ Eutaw Street (west side) from Madison to Monument Streets 4:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
∙ Howard Street (west side) from 23rd to 28th Streets 4:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
∙ Wyman Park Drive from Remington Avenue to Art Museum Drive 5:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
∙ Camden Street from Russell to Howard Streets 6:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
∙ Fort Avenue from Lawrence to Hull Streets 7:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
∙ St. Paul Street (upper level) from Franklin to Saratoga Streets 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
∙ William Street (east side) from Warren Street to Key Highway 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
∙ Fort Avenue (south side) from Lawrence to Hull Streets 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
∙ Cuba Street from Towson to Hull Street 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
The following streets will be closed to through traffic on Saturday, October 16, 2010:
∙ Russell Street from Hamburg to Pratt Street 5:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
∙ Eutaw Street from Madison to Monument Streets 6:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
∙ Eutaw Street from Pratt to Camden Streets 7:00 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.
∙ Camden Street from Russell to Howard Streets 7:00 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.
∙ Light Street from Lombard Street to Key Highway 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
∙ Key Highway from Cross to Light Streets 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
∙ Central Avenue from Gough to Bank Streets 11:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
∙ Pratt Street from Calvert to Exeter Streets 12:45 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
∙ Exeter Street from Pratt to Bank Streets 12:45 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
∙ Bank Street from Exeter Street to Central Avenue 12:45 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The following streets will be impacted by the marathon on Saturday, October 16, 2010:
∙ Paca Street from Pratt to Lombard Streets 5:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
∙ Paca Street from Lombard to McCulloh Streets 7:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
∙ McCulloh Street from Paca Street to Greenspring Avenue 7:10 a.m. – 8:50 a.m.
∙ Greenspring Avenue from Beechwood Drive to Wyman Park Drive (in Druid Hill Park) 7:15 a.m. - 9:50 a.m.
∙ Wyman Park Drive from Remington Avenue to W. 28th Street 7:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
∙ W. 28th Street from Howard to St. Paul Streets 7:35 a.m. - 10:05 a.m.
∙ St. Paul Street from 28th to Light Streets 7:35 a.m. - 10:35 a.m.
∙ Key Highway from Light Street to Lawrence Street and Lawrence Street from Key Highway to Fort Avenue 7:35
a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
∙ Fort Avenue from Lawrence Street to Hull Street and Hull Street from Lawrence Street to the Key Highway Extension 7:50 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
∙ Key Highway from Hull Street to Lawrence Street to Light Street 8:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
∙ Light Street to Pratt Street to President Street to Lancaster Street 8:05 a.m. to 12:00 noon
∙ Aliceanna Street from President to Boston Streets 8:10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
∙ Boston Street to Lakewood Avenue to O’Donnell St. to Linwood Avenue 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
∙ Linwood Avenue from O’Donnell Street to Madison Street 8:20 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.
∙ Madison Street from Linwood Avenue to Washington Street to St. Lo
Drive 8:25 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
∙ Harford Road from St. Lo Drive to Hillen Road 8:35 a.m. to 1:35 p.m.
∙ Hillen Road from Harford Road to 33rd Street 8:35 a.m. to 1:35 p.m.
∙ Lake Montebello to 33rd Street to Guilford Avenue 8:40 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

∙ Guilford Avenue from 28th to Howard Streets 8:50 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
∙ Howard Street from 28th Street to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard 8:55 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
∙ Eutaw St. to finish at M&T Bank Stadium 9:05 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.
Please note that traffic along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. will remain open in both directions during the marathon.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:00 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: On the roads
        

Alliance's MTA survey counts 582 responses

The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance reports that it has received 582 responses to its Rate Your Ride survey of Maryland transit customers, with lateness and missed stops as the most common complaints.

The alliance launched the  survey Sept. 29, using text-messaging and an online survey. This week it released the total of riders surveyed but no tally of responses.

The group is seeking opinions of Maryland Transit Administration customers on all its modes  of travel -- buses, light rail, the Metro, MARC and the Mobility service for  the disabled. The  alliance said one-third of those surveyed were students, one-third people traveling to and from work and one-third riding for  other reasons.

The most common complaints were about lateness and missed stops, the alliance said. The most common positive comments, it said, were that rides were on time and comfortable and that service was friendly. The survey is continuing.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:10 PM | | Comments (0)
        

October 8, 2010

N.J. governor backtracks on tunnel project kibosh

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has apparently backtracked on his announced cancellation of the ARC tunnel project that would double rail capacity under the Hudson River between his state and Manhattan.

The action came after the Republican governor met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. According to  New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat and a backer of  ARC, LaHood informed Christie that the $3 billion the federal government is contributing to the project would not stay in New Jersey but would be directed to other states. New Jersey would apparently also have to repay the ffeds for $300 million already spent on the project.

Officially, Christie has put the project on hold for two weeks to take a second look at ARC. Should he decide to stick by his decision to cancel, Maryland could be among the states lining up for a piece of that  money.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:09 PM | | Comments (0)
        

City announces weekend road closings

Here are the weekend's city road closings from the Baltimore Department of Transportation:

 The Baltimore City Department of Transportation would like to advise motorists that a portion of Orleans Street will temporarily close on Saturday for the construction of a pedestrian bridge. On Saturday, October 09, 2010 Orleans Street will be closed to through traffic between Wolfe Street and Broadway from 6:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. with detours in effect.

 Motorists traveling in this vicinity may encounter delays and should consider using alternate routes.

Station North Fall Music Festival

This Saturday, a portion of North Avenue will be temporarily closed for the Station North Fall Music Festival. On Saturday, October 09, 2010 North Avenue will be closed to through traffic between Charles Street and Maryland Avenue from 12:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. with detours in effect. Parking will also be restricted along this portion of North Avenue from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Motorists traveling in this vicinity should pay close attention to posted parking restrictions and be on the watch for pedestrians. Detour signs will be posted in the area and commuters are encouraged to use alternate routes.

St. Paul Street Lane Closures

This Saturday, temporary lane closures will be implemented along a portion of St. Paul Street for construction work. On Saturday, October 09, 2010 a double lane closure will be implemented along St. Paul Street between Franklin and Pleasant Streets from 5:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Motorists traveling in this vicinity may experience delays and should consider using alternate routes.

Gay Street Closure

This Saturday, a portion of Gay Street will be temporarily closed for a ceremony at the War Memorial Building. On Saturday, October 09, 2010 Gay Street will be closed to through traffic between Fayette and Lexington Streets from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. with detours in effect.

Parking will also be restricted along this portion of Gay Street during this time. Motorists traveling in this vicinity should pay close attention to posted parking restrictions and consider using alternate routes.

Black Pride Fall Block Party

 This Sunday, temporary lane closures will be implemented along a portion of Greene Street for the 9th annual Black Pride Fall block party. On Sunday, October 10, 2010 two right lanes of Greene Street will be closed to through traffic between Saratoga and Lexington Streets at 3:00 p.m. and will remain closed until Monday, October 11, 2010 at 1:00 a.m. In addition, parking will also be restricted along this portion of Greene Street from 3:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 10, 2010 until 1:00 a.m. on Monday, October 11, 2010.

 Motorists traveling in this vicinity should pay close attention to posted parking restrictions and be on the watch for pedestrians.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads
        

MTA holds annual Bus Roadeo Saturday

The Maryland Transit Administration will hold its annual Bus and Maintenance Roadeo Saturday, showcasing the skills of its drivers and maintenance teams at a free public event.

Bus enthusiasts can catch the event from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Reisterstown Plaza Metro Station. The event will be hosted by radio personality Tom Watts.

As part of the program, operators and mechanics compete in timed drills demonstrating various professional skills. Admission is free. Children's activities are planned.  Antique buses will be on display. It  may not be for everybody, but for MTA employees and their families, it's  a big deal.

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:07 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: MTA
        

Toll authority to add bridge cameras

The Maryland Transportation Authority plans to upgrade its electronic security camera system on five large bridges at a cost of $5-10 million, according to a state web site.

The toll authority is now in the process of taking bids on the contract to supply the camera system, installation of whhich is expected to begin next year. Cheryl Sparks, an authority spokeswoman, said the system is designed to be an "enhancement" of the agency's current surveillance system.

The system would be installed at the Francis Scott  Key Bridge, the Bay  Bridge, the Millard E.  Tydings Bridge (Interstate 95 over the Susquehanna River), the Thomas J. Hatem Bridge (U.S. 40 over the Susquehanna) and the Harry W. Nice Bridge (U.S. 301 over the Potomac River).

 

Sparks said she could not discuss many details of the system for security reasons. She said the system would be used for anti-terrorism, vandalism prevention and traffic management purposes but not for traffic law enforcement. She said that as part of the project, the state is consolidating its control center for the security camera systems -- now divided among three offices -- at a single facility in Baltimore.

The window for bids to be  received will close Oct. 29.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities
        

October 7, 2010

Caton Avenue ramps to I-95 to reopen

Commuters from Arbutus, Halethorpe, Lansdowne and other points southwest of downtown Baltimore can breathe a sigh of relief: The ramps from Caton Avenue to northbound Interstate 95, closed for the past month, are expected to reopen next week.

The Maryland Transportation Authhority said both the eastbound and westbound ramps off Caton, which have been closed since Sept. 11 for pavement work, could open as early as Tuesday. The authority said the work had originally been expected to take six weeks.

The reopening of the ramps will not mean the end of closings in the area, parts of which are undergoing serious rehabilitation work for the first time in decades.  From Monday through Thursday, the southbound left tube of the Fort McHenry Tunnel will be closed overnight from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. The two left lanes of I-95 just south of the tunnel will also be closed, as well as one lane from a point a mile south of the tunnel to Caton Avenue.

The following weekend, on Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m, the leftbound lane of southbound I-95 from Russell to Caton will be closed, along with the left lane of northbound I-95 between the Beltway and Russell. The lanes will reopen at 9 a.m. the following mornings.

On Oct. 15, that Friday, the ramp  from eastbound Caton to southbound I-95 willl be closed until 11:59 p.m.. Saturday night, the authority said. A detour will be in place.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:34 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

October 6, 2010

If N.J. bails on tunnel, Md. should seek funds

Published reports indicate that New Jersey Gov, Chris Christie may withdraw the state's participation in the proposed ARC tunnel project that would greatly increase rail capacity under the Hudson River -- currently a major bottleneck for trains going into or out of New York.

The freshman Republican governor is reported to want to spend the money on roads instead. If Christie does so, it could free up about $3 billion in federal funding for other rail projects around the country. The Maryland congressional delegation and state Transportation Department would be remiss if they didn't put on a full-court press for a big share of that money to replace the Amtrak tunnels through Baltimore or to improve freight traffic to the Port of Baltimore. Both are worthy local projects that accomplish national transportation objectives. They could also put a lot of Marylanders to work.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:28 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads
        

Conway Street closures extended

The lane closings on Conway Street that have contributed to backups during the morning commute from south of Baltimore to downtown this week are now expected to be extended for several more days.

The city Department of Transportation said it would continue  the double  lane closing on eastbound Conway through Saturday at 6 a.m. because bad weather has delayed work this week. The closing of the two left lanes of Conway, one of the main gateways from Interstate 95 into the city, has ruled out any turns onto northbound Light Street. Access to southbound Light is still permitted.

The road work, part of the city's efforts to prepare for  next year's Grand Prix auto race, comes at the same time the city has closed two lanes of Pratt Stret between Greene and Calvert streets, further complicating downtown traffic.

 

City officials are urging motorists use alternate routes into downtown. Among their suggestions  is  to take Interstate 395 directly into Howard Street and to turn on Baltimore or Mulberry streets. Another alternative is to take the Martin Luther King Boulevard exit and then take a right on Baltimore or Mulberry.

Is anyone out there beginning to wonder whether this race is worth the trouble?

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:47 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

State adds 5th work zone with speed cameras

The State Highway Administration will deploy speed cameras at a work zone in Frederick County -- the fifth such photo enforcement site in Maryland and the first outside the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas.

The zone, on U.S. 15 just north of the Hayward Road intersection, could be activated as early as today. Under the speed camera law passed by the General Assembly in 2009, the state can use photo enforcement to control speeds in some types of work zones.

The new zone joins previous ones set up on U.S. 95 near the site of the Intercounty Connector interchange now under construction in Prince George's County, the express toll lane project on I-95 outside Baltimore and the Liberty Road and Charles Street bridge replacement projects on the Beltway.

As with the other zones, the speed cameras in Frederick County will issue tickets only to vehicles going  12 mph or more over the speed limit. The fine is $40 and carries no points. According to the SHA, large warning signs have been set up to alert motorists that they are entering a photo enforcement zone. The posted limit in the zone is 45 mph.

The SHA said the cameras will issue warnings only for their first three weeks in operation.

According to the agency, the work zones that have been in effect have been successful in lowering speeds.

“Statistics gathered from other automated speed enforcement locations are proving that drivers are slowing down as much as five to seven mph through some of our work zones," said SHA chief Neil J. Pedersen   "With more than four out of every five work zone crashes injuring the driver, not the worker, we must do everything we can to implore drivers to slow down all the time, especially through work zones .”

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:34 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: On the roads
        

State starts '511' service for travelers

The State Highway Administration has announced it will launch a free. round-the-clock "511" telephone service to provide real-time traffic information to travelers in the state.

The new system, provided by Televent of Rockville, under a five-year contract with the state worth $4.7 million, will start up in fall 2011, according to Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The SHA wil manage the statewide service, under which the contractor will collect traffic information from a variety of sources and provide it to travelers who place calls to 511. The informatiion will also be  made available through social network operators and a website. The 511 system is later expected to add a personalized service that will alert subscribers to traffic conditions via text messaging.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:55 AM | | Comments (3)
        

SHA fixes light's timing after reader complaint

It's been a good run for Getting There readers. Roy Saches managed to get the MTA to change some confusing signage. Now reader Pat Ward has brought about action from the State Highway Administration on a troublesome traffic light in Carroll County. Here's what Ward had to say:

I am not sure who to contact to request someone look at the timing of the light at Dede Rd and 140 during rush hour.  This light doesn’t seemed to be timed correctly with traffic coming from 795 during rush hour and causes traffic to back up all the way to the bridge or more some days.   Once you get past that light and the light at 91, traffic flows good with the other lights on 140.    There may be a backup at some lights but they flow longer for the 140 traffic.
 
A better timing is needed at the Dede and route 91 lights on 140 during rush hours, 4:00 – 6:00 at least.
 

Ms. Ward's message, once passed on to the SHA, brought this reponse from spokesman Dave Buck:

I wanted to follow up on the traffic signal issue on MD 140 at Dede Rd and MD 140 at MD 91 in Carroll County.
 
The citizen was absolutely correct.  One of the traffic signal detection cameras (the small cameras which are located on traffic signal poles which point at turn lanes to detect the presence of vehicles to provide the appropriate amount of green time) was malfunctioning. 
 
Since the traffic signals on MD 140 at Dede Road and MD 140 at MD 91 are connected in a system (meaning they communicate with each other either using  underground cable via conduit or above ground cable along the utility poles) if one of the cameras malfunctions, the entire "system" of timing of all signals within that system breaks down.
 
The camera detection on MD 140 at Dede Rd was replaced on Friday 10/1.  All signal timing has been adjusted at both intersections and motorists should not experience that unusual WB MD 140 delay described by the reader.
 
We appreciate you and the citizen bringing this to our attention.
 
In the future, if motorists have any concerns on SHA's roads (signals, potholes, signs etc...), they can also go to our website at this link and http://marylandsha.force.com/customercare/request_for_service and put in a service request through our customer care management system, where we track all of our citizen requests.

Of course, it's great when citizens go through approved channels and get action, but  Getting There is here  for those who doon't trust that system or whose complaints have been lost.

It is my experience, however, that individuals can bring about action from the SHA and other state government agencies once they get through to the right person. The SHA and local governments particularly depend on citizens to alert them when the timing of a light is faulty. In such cases, the more specific the complaint, the better. "The light on Main and Broad always turns red for me" doesn't quite cut it.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:18 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Reader gets confusing signs removed

Getting There reader Roy Sachs sent an email recently with a plea to the Maryland Transit Administration to fix some confusing signage. The message, once forwarded to the MTA, seems to have prompted action. Here's what Sachs said:

Southbound on Reisterstown Road, just before the intersection at Old Court Road, there is a Metro sign, indicating you should turn right at Old Court, to get to a metro station....which is correct.... 
however....

Continuing southbound, AT the intersection of Old Court and Reisterstown Road, there is another sign indicating you should continue straight on Reisterstown Road.....this sign also should indicate a right turn!

I contacted the MTA a few years ago.....but no change in signs.

I thought you might be interested.

It turns out  the MTA was interested too. Here's the reply from MTA spokesman David Clark:

Thank you for forwarding your reader's question regarding Metro Subway signage along Reisterstown Road at Old Court Road.  MTA has removed a sign that may have confused some drivers.  Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Congratulations to Roy Sachs for bringing about some action. Getting There was glad to help.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
        

October 5, 2010

Is transit the vision the ICC was in 2002?

Sometimes reporters conduct fascinating interviews only to find that they just don't fit into the article they're working on. So it was recently when I talked with Todd Eberly, a St. Mary's College political science professor and keen observer of Maryland politics, about transportation issues and the governor's race.

Anyway, that's the beauty of a blog. There's a way to use this stuff.

Eberly's premise is that conveying a "vision" is important for Maryland gubernatorial candidates --especially for Republican nominees. His premise is that in a heavily Democratic state, a Democrat without vision beats a Republican without vision any time.

This year, he sees Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley moving ahead of GOP challenger Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the vision stakes, at least on transportation issues.

 

Eberly said that in 2002, Ehrlich's bold stance in favor of the Intercounty Connector represented a vision for transportation in the vote-rich Washington suburbs. (Democratic nominee Kathleen Kennedy Townsend also favored the ICC but was heavily identified with then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who tried to kill it.) Whether you loved or hated the ICC, there is no question it was a Big Idea that voters could easily grasp.

That year Ehrlich peeled off enough votes in heavily Democratic Montgomery County – the state’s most populous jurisdiction -- to win statewide. But in 2006, with the battle of the ICC largely won by its proponents, the issue didn’t have the juice for Ehrlich it had in 2002. O’Malley won a huge majority in Montgomery and a victory statewide on a pledge to follow through on construction of the highway – a project whose first phase is now nearing completion.

Eberly said that in 2010 Ehrlich has failed to articulate a vision for transportation comparable to his message in 2002. He contends that O’Malley’s pro-transit stance, particularly his support for the Purple Line in the traffic-choked Washington suburbs, could be comparable to Ehrlich’s pro-ICC stand eight years ago. Ehrlich's support of enhhanced bus service, he said, is not an appealling vision of the future of  transit.

Politicallly, Eberly said, “This time around Martin O’Malley is on the right side of the issue, and Ehrlich is on the opposite side."

In a series of written answers to The Sun's questions about transportation issues, Ehrlich spelled out in no uncertain terms why he doesn't like light rail. It is, he said, too costly, a blight upon the neighborhoods it goes through and a boondoggle for developers.

It's an argument with some potential. Light rail is a form of transit that doesn't exactly stir the soul the way a subway or a bullet train does. But a souped-up bus service has even less appeal -- except to those whose first priority is to keep the price tag down.

During Ehrlich's previous term, then-Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan repeatedly talked up bus rapid transit without ever selling the idea to many people in the affected communities. Ehrlich is not doing a lot to make it appealing today. Telling folks it's the only alternative he'd consider isn't exactly a sales pitch.

Now Eberly could be wrong. It could be the mood in 2010 is so anti-spending that coming out against big transportation projects is perceived as vision. But there's something about Americans that gravitates toward the idea of building big things.

In his written answers to The Sun, Ehrlich referred to a plan to "connect the entire Baltimore-Washington region with a system of relatively congestion-free lanes." There's a glimmer of a vision in that but it needs to be fleshed out - and soon.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: For policy wonks only
        

MVA chief replies to bicyclists' objections

There was quite a bit of outrage in the Baltimore bicyclist community about my basically pro-bicyclist column in Monday's Sun. The column accurately quoted Buel Young, spokesman for the Motor Vehicle Administration, on the effects of the state's new law requiring motorists to maintain a 3-foot buffer when passing bicyclists.

Among the most outraged was local bicyclist Barry Childress, who fired off a letter essentally calling for Young's head on a platter (OK, slight exaggeration). The following is the reply he received from John T. Kuo, head of the MVA:

Dear Mr. Childress:

As follow up to our telephone conversation yesterday evening, thank you again for sharing your concerns regarding the statements attributed to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) in Michael Dresser’s October 3, 2010 "Getting There" column entitled "New bicycle law codifies common sense, courtesy / But folks on two wheels have responsibilities, too." The article concerns the new law that requires a three-foot buffer when passing a bicycle.

This new law does not change or impact any other existing motor vehicle laws. A bicycle on the road is considered a vehicle and has exactly the same rights as any other vehicle on the road.  In fact, Maryland Motor Vehicle Law states that "every person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter in a public bicycle area has the rights granted to and is subject to all the duties required of the driver of a vehicle by this title."  In addition, all drivers have the responsibility to show due care as stated in Maryland Vehicle Law 21-504 to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.

The Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) is committed to the safety of all vehicles on Maryland’s roads, including bicycles.  Bicycles are part of the traffic scene, sharing the road with other users.  In our public outreach efforts, we consistently emphasize the message of sharing the road. We urge drivers to look out for other vehicles, drawing particular attention to motorcycles, large trucks and bicycles.


Common sense and good judgment must prevail to insure the safe and practical use of the roadway for both vehicles and bicycles. In the state’s approved driver’s education curriculum, 15 miles an hour below the posted speed limit is used as a benchmark for impeding traffic.  This information is only meant as a guideline and is not a legal requirement. Good judgment regarding the safety of all vehicles and individuals must always be exercised.

The MVA is currently in the process of revising The Maryland Driver’s Handbook and has reached out to the bicycling community through the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access. The new handbook should be published next year and will have updated information relating to the laws for bicyclists and drivers.  The MVA will constantly work to provide the public with the best possible information regarding driver and vehicle safety, not only as it relates to specific motor vehicle laws but also to recommended best practices.

As we discussed and agreed, all vehicles operating on our roadways should exercise an abundance of caution and courtesy at all times to help prevent accidents.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to contact directly at anytime.

Best Regards,

John


John T. Kuo

Administrator

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:00 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bicycles
        

October 4, 2010

Red light runners bring peril to Belair Road

Richard Lelonek of Baltimore has what sounds to me like a valid concern about the state of safety at the intersection outside his church. Let's let him tell the story:

The intersection of Belair Rd. and Brendan Ave. is governed by a traffic light.  The intersection also serves people attending church services at the Shrine of the Little Flower.  In the rear of the church there is located a charter school.  On week days it is a busy intersection for those going to or from church and the school. 


The red signal for Belair Rd. is frequently ignored as drivers go right through the red light.  Some months ago I, too, was almost a casualty when attempting to cross on my green when a car brushed me as he sped by on his red.    


       

In the morning and afternoon there is a crossing guard for the school.  The guard, too, has been ignored by drivers going through on the red.
       

Over the last several years, in behalf of the Parish Council of the Shrine and the Belair-Edison Community Assn. I have wrtten to the city about this problem, never receiving even an acknowledgment.

Perhaps, you can see what can be done before some one is killed.
A red light camera there would pay for itself in a month.

              Richard L. Lelonek

We'll see what the city has to say about this. It strikes me that this is the kind of problem that City Council members are in the business of handling. Mr. Lelonek's councilman is Warren  Branch.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:34 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads
        

Pa. man kills self by lying down in front of train

A Pennsylvania man killed himself Monday morning by lying down in front of an Amtrak train in Middle River, Baltimore County police said.

A police spokesman, Cpl. Michael Hill, said a conductor aboard an Amtrak regional train saw a man step out from behind a pillar about 9:30 a.m. and lie down on the tracks at the Route 43 overpass near the Martin State Airport MARC station. Hill said there was no opportunity for the train to stop before hitting the man, identified as 46-year-old Mark Young of the 400 block of Marion Road in York, Pa.

Barbara Petito, an Amtrak spokeswoman, said there were about 125 passengers aboard the northbound train, which was traveling from Washington to St. Albans, Vt. She said the train was delayed about two hours.

The fatality was the second on the Amtrak tracks in the Middle River area this year. In January, 14-year-old Anna Marie Stickel was killed in an accident while walking along the tracks on her way to school.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:34 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads
        

State opens 2 E-ZPass offices at ends of ICC

With the first segment of the Intercounty Connector scheduled to open in about three months, the Maryland Transportation Authority and the Motor Vehicle Administration have opened E-ZPass offices at either end of the new toll road.

The new offices are located in the MVA's Gaithersbug and Beltsville branch offices, where they will be open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

The ICC will be the first Maryland toll facility to operate entirely without tollbooths. Tolls will be collected either with E-ZPass or by cameras that will record license plates of vehicles  that use the highway. Motorists who don't have E-ZPass will be charged a service fee to cover the cost of billing.

The first segment of the $2.5 billion ICC, from Shady Grove to Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County, is scheduled to open either in late December or early January. The segment between Interstate 95 and Georgia Avenue is expected  to open either in late 2011 or early 2012,

 

The Beltsville MVA office is at 11760 Baltimore Avenue, Suites 43 and 44. The Gaithersburg office is at 15 Metropolitan Grove Road.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities, On the roads
        

Pa. man killed by Amtrak train in Middle River

A Pennsylvania man was  struck and killed by an Amtrak train in Middle River this morning -- the second fatality in that area in the past year.

Amtrak spokeswoman Barbara Petito said the unidentified adult trespasser was struck by a northbound train just north of the Martin State Airport MARC station at 9:07 a.m.

In January, 14-year-old Anna Marie Stickel was killed by an Amtrak train while walking along the tracks on her way to school. The Middle River area has long had a problem with unauthorized people gaining access to the tracks, which in some locations are not protected by fences.

According to  Amtrak, there were  about 125 people aboard Amtrak Train No. 56, coming from Washington and traveling to St. Albans, Vt.,  when it struck the man.  The train was delayed about two hours.

The victim has been identified as a York, Pa., man but his name is being withheld until next  of kin can be notified.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:47 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads
        

MTA gets federal money for bus system

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to announce $776 million in Federal Transit Administration grants to local transit systems today, and the Maryland Transit Administration is in line to receive about $14 million to replace its ancient Bush Street bus barn and to install a modern bus cleaning system.

 Here are the detaiils:

MARYLAND

Maryland DOT
Project: Bus Shop Construction
Amount: $12,000,000

MDOT will use the funds to replace its 103 year-old Bush Street bus maintenance shop, which has exceeded its useful life.  The replacement facility will be used to maintain and accommodate 700 new hybrid and articulated buses.  Construction of the building will be complete with repair/inspection bays, space for parts storage, and a dedicated rebuilding area.

Maryland DOT
Project: Bus Wash Replacement
Grant Amount: $1,723,050

Maryland DOT’s old bus wash systems will be replaced with new energy efficient and environmentally friendly bus wash systems that can accommodate both conventional diesel and hybrid buses. A water reclamation system will recycle water used by the bus wash.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:29 AM | | Comments (0)
        

October 1, 2010

Race for the Cure will close county roads

Sunday will bring the 18th Annual Susan G. Komen Maryland Race for the Cure to Hunt Valley -- a good thing for breast cancer research but not necessariiy great for traffic flow in northern Baltimore  County.

The Baltimore County police warned motorists that several roads in the Hunt Valley area will be  closed that morning starting at 6 a.m. Among those affected will be Shawan, York, McCormick, Gilroy and Beaver Dam roads, along with Shilling Circlle.

For  specific closings,  click here. Participants are expected to start arriving about 6 a.m., and the race starts at 8 a.m.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:52 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Traffic delays expected for offiicer's funeral Monday

Motorists in western and northern Baltimore County can expect to encounter delays Monday as a result of a funeral procession for a Baltimore officer who was killed in a vehicle crash.

The Baltiimore County police said the delays will begin about 11:30 a.m. after a funeral Mass for Officer James Fowler at St. Mark Church in Catonsville. The delays are expected to continue into the early afternoon between there and Timonium.

Such funeral processions have in the past been a point of contention between residents of the cemetery neighborhood and officers. Neighbors complain that they have been trapped in their homes for hours, while police contend that well-attended funeral processions are an important part of their culture.

 

 

Police said the procession will leave the churchh and proceed to Winters Lane in Catonsville, then travel on Edmondson Avenue to the Beltway, where it will head north on the Inner Loop. From the Beltway, it will travel north on Interstate 83 and exit onto Padonia Road until reaching Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

Parking along Padonia Road east of the entrance to the cemetery will be reserved for overflow funeral parking. Police said they do not know how many vehicles to expect, but law enforcement funerals in the region have typically attracted hundreds of vehicles and resulted in significant backups. Police are asking residents and other drivers to use alternate routes.

Fowler, 61, was killed last Monday in a single-vehicle crash in Pennsylvania while traveling to a training session at Penn State. He was a 33-year veteran of the city police force.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:08 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads
        

MTA now posts MARC performance results

Congratulations to the Maryland Transit Administration for adopting the practice of posting a daily summary of the performance of the MARC system on its website.

Since early September, the MTA has been posting a regular summary of the previous day’s MARC delays, allong with a scorecard tracking its on-time performannce on a month-to-date and year-to-date basis.

The totals for September as of Thursday show an admirable Penn Line performance for the month of 95 percent – much better than the year-to-date figure of 89 percent. The news from the Camden and Brunswick lines isn’t so rosy – with both scoring in the mid-80s for September.

Riders can find the data here  . Or go to the MTA website  and click on MARC TRAIN at the top. From the menu that pops up, choose MARC Train – Daily Service Digest.

This is the type of transparency that is long overdue at the MTA, which should consider providing this data for  more of its modes. (Local bus could be difficult, but the light rail and Metro should be doable.) Riders are invivited to monitor it for accuracy.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:39 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: MARC train
        
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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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Charm City Current
Traffic Resources
Baltimore Metropolitan Council (Regional transportation planning)
Maryland Department of Transportation (State transportation policy)
Maryland Transit Administration (Buses, light rail, Metro, Mobility)
State Highway Administration (Maintains numbered routes)
Motor Vehicle Administration (Licenses, permits, rules of the road)
Maryland Transportation Authority (Toll bridges, tunnels and highways)
Maryland Aviation Administration (BWI and Martin Airport)
AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report (Track Maryland average gas prices.)
MarylandGasPrices.com (Find the lowest and highest prices.)
SafeRoadMaps (Find out where the crashes happen.)
Roads to the Future (Scott M. Kozel on Mid-Atlantic infrastructure.)
WMATA (Washington metropolitan buses and Metro)
Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (D.C. regional planning)
U.S. Department of Transportation (federal transportation policy)
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