State employee describes MLK dangers
Georgia Corso, a 12-year state employee who works at the State Center complex in Baltimore, wrote Getting There to describe the problems she sees with the pedestrian crossing of Martin Luther King Boulevard between there and Maryland General Hospital.
The crossing was the site of a fatal incident Tuesday in which a bus struck a man in a crosswalk. Police attributed the death to pedestrian error. Getting There passes on Corso's email in a lightly edited version.
The center is bordered by Howard Street on the east, Eutaw Street on the west, and the heavily-trafficked six-lane divided highway of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to the south. On the north side of MLK Blvd are the 5th Regiment Armory and the Maryland State Office Complex, comprised of three buildings full of offices. To the south are the Maryland General Hospital complex, the Baltimore School for the Arts, and a myriad of restaurants and shops. There is one crossing for pedestrians across MLK Blvd and I would venture that easily 750 people use that particular crosswalk everyday.
It takes forever to get across the street; the signal is not coordinated with the ones at Eutaw Street and Howard Street. At rush hour, pedestrians are crossing through stopped traffic that is gridlocked. The light signal changes green for pedestrians every two minutes, according to Mike Harrington of Baltimore City’s Transit and Traffic, although I have not yet had the stopwatch to time it. But when you are standing on the sidewalk waiting for your chance to cross, it seems much longer than that indeed.
The signal does not respond to the Pedestrian Crossing Button, and you can punch on that button forever to no avail. Additionally drivers exhibit a flagrant disregard for the red signals in both directions and pedestrians cannot depend on the signal to stop traffic. Since there is not a street intersection affiliated with the red light, just a pedestrian crosswalk, drivers feel that stopping for the red light is optional, and it makes no sense to stop for the possibility of a pedestrian. Sometimes drivers are running the light because the existing signals are too high in the air for drivers near the crosswalk to see the light. The crosswalk painting on the street has faded and worn.
People who have to cross are usually on a 30 minute lunch break, or are trying to get to work on time and cannot afford to stand on one side of the street waiting for the long two minute series to finally change, particularly when it does not seem to really make a difference to the passing cars. They take their chances and cross halfway, standing on the narrow median, under four feet wide, waiting for the other side to clear and then to make a break. I call it playing Frogger. Oftentimes, pedestrians will get caught on the median, with traffic rushing dangerously past on both sides. It was only a matter of time.
I started making calls back in October. I was told the signal had already been examined and to try calling 311. That did nothing. I kept calling. Finally, Mike Harrington came out to the site and when I spoke with him afterwards, he said he made the green signal for pedestrians longer, giving them more time to cross. Of all the issues I had with the signal that was not one of them. I called then again on December 16, 2010, and told him I was getting a petition together and I was going to send it to the Mayor’s office. I was terrified of the idea of watching someone get hit and having to live with that specter the rest of my life. Plus I truly care about the people I work with, not to mention my own safety. I sent out an email to everyone in the Laboratories Administration and started gathering signatures. In talking with my co-workers, many told me that they had also called about the intersection and there was no action taken.
Finally, yesterday, January 4th at approximately 3 p.m., a man was attempting to cross and was hit by a (bus). A coworker in the Department of General Services saw it and told our security guard that people lifted the man and carried him into the Linden Deli, and that he watched as workers from Maryland General Hospital worked to resuscitate the man. When I heard about the incident yesterday afternoon from Department of General Services Police officers, I called Transit and Traffic and told them that I was the woman who had spoken to them, requested a camera, requested other safety issues, additional lower traffic signals, and was getting a petition together.
And that now there had been a fatality, just as I feared. I could not get any information from the Baltimore City Police, naturally, but there were eight patrol cars on the scene when I left work at 5:15 p.m. and there were city police officers from the Crash Unit on hand, the crossing was taped off, traffic on the west bound side was detoured, and officers were bustling about still. It is a horrible thing that someone has to die, a family has to lose a loved one, before something is done about a situation that is well-known for many years to hundreds of people.
Getting There has contacted the city and is looking forward to hearing its response to Corso's concerns and any plans it might have for addressing pedestrian safety issues there.