With the end of the winter construction hiatus and road projects in full swing, drivers who use the streets between Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor are seeing plenty of orange barrels and cones these days. And thanks to a proliferation of lanes closings in the area, they have plenty of time to count them.
The current spate of traffic tie-ups, which are expected to continue a couple more months, are the result of a combination of utility projects and the city’s continuing effort to prepare its streets for a Grand Prix auto race over Labor Day weekend.
Light, Pratt and Howard streets are among the major drags affected by the current proliferation of construction and maintenance jobs. Conway Street, that short but vital connector used by many commuters from south of the city to get from Interstate 95 to the Inner Harbor, is the site of several projects involving both BGE gas lines and Baltimore’s aspirations to be a center of Indy car racing.
The Grand Prix is expected to bring tens of thousands of racing fans to Baltimore for a three-day "festival of speed" that is part of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series. Race sponsors have enlisted retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, to serve as grand marshal of the event.
Currently, there are lanes closings on both eastbound and westbound Conway at South Charles Street where BGE is replacing the sealant on some of its gas lines. The resulting lane closings are in effect between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays -- including, at times, double closings that narrow traffic to a single lane. Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Department of Transportation, said that work is expected to continue another 4-6 weeks.
BGE is doing similar work along Light Street between Conway and Lee Street near the intersection with Key Highway, said Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Department of Transportation.
In addition to the utility work, the city has resumed paving and repair projects intended to prepare the city's streets for the pounding they will take from dozens of Indy-style race cars speeding along its streets on Sept. 2-4.
Paving projected connected with the three-day race gave downtown drivers plenty to get honked off about last summer and fall before the pace of work dropped off over the winter. But with the arrival of spring, the road crews are out along several of the streets on a course winding around Oriole Park, the Convention Center and major Inner Harbor hotels.
Some of that work will take place along Conway, where the city will cut through a median to create a crooked passage through the median to take cars from the westbound to the eastbound lanes. Frank Murphy, the city's deputy transportation operations director, said the lane shift is intended to slow the cars down before the cross the light rail tracks and turn left into the Camden Yards parking lot.
Other Grand Prix-related work is occurring on Light near the intersection with Pratt, where Murphy said inspectors for the Grand Prix sponsors found some work that didn't meet their specifications. He said other pavement improvements would be made on northbound Light between Lee and Pratt and on southbound Light between Conway and Pratt.
Murphy said crews are now working in the north lanes of Pratt, a one-way eastbound street, between Paca and Calvert streets. When that is complete, the work will shift to the south lanes, he said.
Meanwhile, crews have are periodically closing lanes of Howard Street where in leads from Interstate 395 into downtown at the intersection with Conway. Crews there have excavated the median strip for what Barnes said is the relocation of light poles in preparation for the race.
The Sun would be interested in hearing from downtown drivers who have been affected by the roadwork. Please call Michael Dresser at 410-332-6175 or email firstname.lastname@example.org/