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April 26, 2011

Newest speed camera zone is on Interstate 70

The State Highway Administration will deploy work zone speed cameras along Interstate 70 around Frederick as part of a $40 million project of safety improvements in that corridor.

According to the agency, the cameras will be deployed Monday but will issue warnings only for 21 days. As of May 23, the cameras will issue citations for vehicles going 12 mph or more above the 55-mph speed limit.

The I-70 corridor project includes two new bridges over South Street. improved ramp access from that street and Monocacy Boulevard, new merge lanes and a new railroad crossing in that area.

The speed camera zone would be the sixth instituted under the SHA's Maryland SafeZones program, which uses cameras and laser technology to enforce speed limits in long-term work zones. Other zones where cameras have been deployed include bridge replacements projects on the Beltway at Charles Street and Liberty Road; the Intercounty Connector project along Inbterstate 95 near Beltsville; Maryland 295 south of Baltimore, and the Express Toll Lane project on I-95 northeast of Baltimore.

The Frederick project is expected to be completed in summer 2013.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:50 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: On the roads

Surprise! MARC performance isn't so bad

The most recent numbers for MARC on-time performance are looking a lot better than they were last year. As of April 25, according to the Maryland Transit Administration, the Penn Line's OTP year to date is 93 percent. That's despite one of the most radical schedule changes in MARC history.

Meanwhile the Camden Line as at 90 percent year to date and the Brunswick Line at 89 percent. That might be short of stellar but it doesn't stink -- at least compared with where MARC was not too long ago.

Of course the real test will be how MARC performs during the hot summer months, which in the mid-Atlantic means May to September. That's been MARC's downfall before.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:53 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: MARC train

MTA warns MARC passengers on drinking

Unlike travelers on the Maryland Transit Administration's other services, riders on the MARC commuter trains have long enjoyed the privilege of consuming adult beverages while aboard.

There's apparently no move afoot to ban that practice, which has been allowed as long as the state has been running MARC trains, but there has been enough bad behavior that MARC director John Hovatter recently sent out a warning to riders not to abuse the MTA's hospitality.


MTA spokesman Terry Owens said he knows of no incidents that have resulted in a arrest, but he said the agency has heard enough complaints from crew members and passengers that Hovatter issued the following warning:

Alcohol Consumption Onboard MARC Trains
While consumption of alcoholic beverages is permitted on MARC trains,
passengers are reminded that this must be done responsibly.  We have
seen an increase in the number of complaints about alcohol consumption
on trains and disruptive behavior that has included loud talking, profanity,
and in some cases, physical altercations that has been associated
with drinking.
Consumption of alcohol on MARC trains is a privilege, not a right.  The
MARC Train Service reserves the right to restrict alcohol consumption
if passenger behavior is not appropriate and remove from the train those
individuals that fail to abide by MARC rules and guidelines.  This includes
the use of profanity, refusal to follow instructions from conductors, and
intimidation or threats to other passengers.  Passengers are also reminded
that drinking and driving do not mix--MTA, State and local law enforcement
will enforce drunken driving laws.
We value you as customers and thank you for helping us maintain a safe
and pleasant atmosphere on board our trains.
John Hovatter
Director, MARC Train Service

So what do you think, MARC riders? Is the boozing getting out of hand? Is the MTA overreacting? Do you enjoy having a cold one aboard the train after a long, hard day at the office? Drop Getting There a line.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:29 PM | | Comments (7)

City officials to observe Fells Point foot traffic

Fells Point residents and city transportation officials will get together to jointly observe pedestrian traffic patterns in the historic neighborhood, City Councilman Jim Kraft says.

The meeting at noon Thursday at the corner of Eastern Avenue and Wolfe Street comes in response to recent complaints (outlined below) that changes implemented by the city Transportation Department have made the streets of Fells Point less walkable.

Kraft said Jamie Kendrick, the city's deputy transportation director, has agreed to join local residents in observing traffic movements there to determine whether they are working. Kraft said the event is open to all who care to show up.

The Southeast Baltimore councilman said Kendrick has already agreed to one of the requests made by local resident Rebecca Smith, who has been agitating for more pedestrian-friendly traffic signals. Kraft said the city will speed up installation of countdown walk signals similar to those common downtown at key intersections in the heart of Fells Point.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads

Citizen fights Fells Point pedestrian changes

Rebecca Smith, founder of the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance, wrote The Sun recently with a complaint that would have brought quick action when William Donald Schaefer was mayor. Getting There can't promise the same type of results, but it can give a public airing to Smith's complaints about changes the city Department of Transportation has made to the pedestrian signals in Fells Point:

I am writing to ask you to stand up for neighborhoods and walkability in Baltimore City--to move Baltimore forward as a progressive, walkable city that is safe and hospitable to residents, businesses, and visitors--instead of taking us backward to a far less enlightened time when cities were designed only around the needs of the car.

As you know, in November, the Baltimore City Council adopted a "Complete Streets" initiative, which binds the city to consider ALL users in transportation and planning decisions--this means, as you know, that decisions about our streets should consider the needs of walkers, bikers, and transit riders, NOT just automobiles.

Now we are faced with a litmus test to determine whether the City Council's commitment is genuine.

For, a recent transportation decision flies in the face of the City Council's commitment to create Complete Streets. 

Within the past month, changes have been made to the walk signals along Fleet and Eastern Streets in Southeast Baltimore.  At certain key intersections* in high pedestrian traffic areas in business districts, pedestrians do not even receive a walk signal at all unless they press a button.  Walkers are waiting for unreasonable periods of time to cross the street and often through two cycles of the light if they do not press the button in time.  Jaywalking has increased dramatically because walkers get tired of waiting.  Some walkers notice that the cross traffic has stopped and enter the intersection without pressing the button, only to find themselves caught in the middle of the street because there is insufficient time to cross when the button is not pressed. 

Buttons such as these are appropriate for areas of low pedestrian traffic, not a densely populated urban area with significant foot traffic.  And not in a city in which such a practice flies in the face of a recently adopted City Council policy. 

As well, drivers on Wolfe and Ann are waiting for unreasonable periods of time--time during which there are periods of NO cross traffic--in order to get where they are going.  Drivers on Wolfe, Ann, and Washington have become more aggressive about running lights and turning into crosswalks when walkers are present, making them more threatening to pedestrians, because they are also tired of waiting and have a very short window themselves.

Clearly these decisions were made solely for the purpose of moving automobile traffic more swiftly along Eastern and Fleet. 

But this policy discourages walking and compromises the safety of pedestrians at a time when we KNOW better. 

Walkability has been shown to substantially increase property values, enhance public health, protect the environment, increase adoption rates of public transportation, and decrease crime.  In the face of such evidence, can the city defend such changes? 

We request the following changes, effective immediately:

1) The timing of signals needs to be restored to its previous state. Timing has significantly overcompensated and is frustrating not only to walkers, but also to drivers on Wolfe, Ann, etc.

2) There MUST be a walk signal with EVERY light change. This is a high pedestrian traffic area and a business district.  Anything else is both unsafe and not in keeping with a Complete Streets policy. 

3) As a show of commitment to the community, these intersections should receive the "count down" signals that have been placed in other areas in the city. The light signals should be changed so that there is a grace period when cross traffic lights change from green to red. People run red lights at these intersections frequently, and walkers and drivers need a grace period. Aliceanna at Wolfe is also long overdue for a walk signal.

Affected intersections include, but are not limited to:  Wolfe at Fleet; Wolfe at Eastern; Ann at Fleet; Ann at Eastern; Washington at Fleet; Washington at Eastern. 

Can you help us?  We hope you will support us in restoring our neighborhood's walkability and will not stand for similar changes in other Baltimore City neighborhoods. 

Many thanks, as always.

Rebecca Smith

It's a well-thought-out, detailed case Smith is making, and well worth an equally thoughtful response from the city. We'll ask the transportation department to provide one and let you know about the response.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:50 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: On the roads

Closings, detours expected on I-95

Interstate 95 south of the Fort McHenry Tunnel will be the site of multiple lane closings over the weekend as crews work to resurface the main highway and some ramps and to upgrade lighting in the area.

The Maryland Transportation Authority, which maintains that stretch of I-95, said the ramp from southbound I-95 to westbound Caton Avenue will be closed from, 5 p.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Saturday. A detour using the eastbound exit will be in place.

The two left lanes of northbound and southbound I-95 from the Beltway to the tunnel will be closed from 9 p.m. Friday until 11 a.m. Saturday. On Sunday at 9 p.m., the authority will close the ramp from southbound Russell Street to southbound I-95 until 5 a.m. Monday. A detour will be in place. All of the road work is contingent upon weather conditions.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

April 25, 2011

MTA slide show remembers Schaefer

The Maryland Transit Administration has put on its web site an interesting slide show of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's involvement with mass transit over the years.

However, it's doubtful that Schaefer would have pleased about the fact that the photos showed he spent a lot of time in the company of Harry R. Hughes, the former governor and transportation secretary, who appears in about one-third of the pictures.

There's no doubt the two men's careers were intertwined, but neither ever seemed to be very thrilled about that fact.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: MTA

April 24, 2011

Schaefer 'final tour' could delay light rail, buses

It was Gov. William Donald Schaefer who brought the light rail system to Baltimore, so perhaps he can be forgiven if he delays it a bit Monday.

The Maryland Transit  Administration says that the planned "final tour" for Schaefer before he lies in state at City Hall starting Monday evening could cause some temporary delays in light rail service, as well as on local and commuter buses, between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The tour will take Schaefer's body from his childhood home in West Baltimore to many sites associated with his career -- including Lexington Market, Camden yards, the Hippodrome, Harborplace, Fells Point and Little Italy.

The MTA said street closures along the route could cause delays.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Light rail

April 22, 2011

Expect delays on Bay Bridge

The Maryland Transportation Authority has called off its usual two-way traffic operations on the Bay Bridge Friday afternoon because of the threat of bad weather.

The agency is warning travelers to expect delays as a result.

The authority usually shifts one lane of the three-lane westbound bridge to eastbound use at periods of peak travel to the Eastern Shore. But it does not do so at times when the weather is bad because of safety concerns.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

State to improve Towson roundabout (again)

The State Highway Administration is taking another crack at the Towson roundabout -- aiming to improve safety and traffic flow at an intersection that has bedeviled engineers for decades.

The agency said it will launch a $632,000 project at the roundabout in the heart of the downtown area Tuesday, requiring a series of lane closings that will continue through late summer.

But the SHA said this round of work, unlike previous projects, is not intended to fix something wrong but to make permanent some of the changes it got right in 2008.

”Basically this is the final version of the improvements we did in 2008,” said Fran Ward, SHA District 4 community liaison.

Ward acknowledged that the agency has made numerous tweaks to the design of the roundabout since it opened in 1998 at a complicated intersection that was the scene of congestion and many crashes when it was controlled by signals.

She said the 2008 work used temporary measures such as reflective paddles and temporary curbs so highway engineers could study how the changed traffic patterns functioned through different seasons. Now, Ward said, after two years of observing the effects, the agency is satisfied that the changes should be made permanent.

The new phase of the project will include upgrades to pedestrian crosswalks, relocation of gutters and sidewalks and installation of concrete curbs. Finally, the highway agency will resurface the roundabout and paint new lane markers.

The SHA said the work will take place at night and will not affect daytime commuters. Lane closings will occur from 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday until 5 a.m. the following morning. According to the agency, the work will be done in six phases, including five that will correspond with the five legs of the roundabout -- East Joppa Road, Dulaney Valley Road, York Road north, York Road south and Allegheny Avenue/West Joppa Road.

Not everybody is happy with the changes.

Todd Zeigler of Rodgers Forge said he seldom patronizes businesses in the area because of the roundabout. He said he used to like the traffic flow there before traffic engineers permitted daylong street parking on York Road and narrowed parts of the traffic circle from two lanes to one.

Zeigler said that before he moved to Maryland he was municipal manager of Spring Grove in York County, Pa. He said Spring Grove officials who visited Towson came away so impressed that they installed a roundabout at a difficult intersection in their community.

But that was before the 2008 redesign.

“The functionality has taken a step back with their changes,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an improvement.”

Here's the SHA's document outlining the specifics of the closings:

State Highway Administration
Towson Roundabout in Baltimore County
Permanent Geometric Improvement Project 2011

Project Start:   April 26, 2011
Estimated Completion:  Late summer 2011

Five Legs in Five Phases

Overnight lane closures and detours of various legs of the roundabout Sunday – Thursday nights, between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. the next morning; no lane closures or detours on weekends. 
Phase 1:  Close right lane on westbound East Joppa Road to right lane northbound Dulaney Valley Road (MD 146)

Phase 2: Close right lane on southbound Dulaney Valley Road and detour northbound York Road (MD 45) north of roundabout

Phase 3: Close right lane on southbound York Road (north of roundabout) and detour westbound Allegheny Avenue and West Joppa Road (one-way section)

Phase 4: Close right lane on northbound York Road south of roundabout; close left lane on southbound York Road south of roundabout; close left lane on northbound Dulaney Valley Road; and detour northbound York Road north of the roundabout

Phase 5: Close right lane northbound York Road south of the roundabout, detour eastbound East Joppa Road; and close left lane of westbound East Joppa Road

Final Phase (Phase Six)

Weekend Roundabout Closures: Close and Detour Entire Roundabout on one or two weekends for final paving work and installation of new pavement markings – projected to occur late summer 2011

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:59 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: On the roads

Amtrak to install heavy-duty fence at Middle River

Amtrak plans to install a heavy-duty, 8-foot-high steel fence along the stretch of its Northeast Corridor in Middle River where a 14-year-old girl was killed in January 2010.

The national passenger railroad announced Friday that it would spend $3.1 million to install 6,400 feet of fencing between Martin Boulevard and Stemmers Run Road. That section of track includes the area where Anna Marie Stickel (right) was struck and killed by an Amtrak train while walking along the tracks as she too a popular but unauthorized local shortcut to Kenwood High School.

Amtrak said the project would also include improvements to a pedestrian underpass at Martin Boulevard that some local residents now avoid because of its darkness. The railroad said the work will take about six months to complete.

Since Anna's death, Amtrak has come under pressure from her mother, Tara Stickel, and U.S. Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger to improve safety conditions in the area. Between Stemmers Run and Martin Boulevard there are stretches of track where there is no barrier to pedestrian access to the tracks. In other sections, the existing chain link fence is decades old and in poor condition.

The poor condition of Amtrak's fences in the area was the subject of a February 2010 Getting There column. The actions Amtrak announced Friday appear to be exactly what was called for in that article.

Photo courtesy of Tara Stickel


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:59 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads

Gas prices rise for 4th straight week to $3.85

The Easter weekend has brought Maryland drivers a rotten egg in the form of gasoline prices.

The state's gas prices continued what looks like an inexorable march toward the $4 mark this week as they increased 3 cents from a week ago to match the national average for a gallon of unleaded of $3.85. It was the fourth straight week that prices have increased. The average has steadily climbed by 78 cents since the beginning of the year and is threatening to reach the $4 mark  by Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

AAA said the increase has been driven by a run-up in the price of crude oil, which has been affected by unrest in the Middle East.

“The market’s momentum makes it impossible to rule out $4.00 a gallon gasoline by Memorial Day, despite some analysts’ predictions to the contrary, however we remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll see some gas price stability in the coming weeks," said AAA Maryland spokeswoman Ragina Averella.

Crude oil ended trading at more than $112 Thursday, up 2.4 percent for the week. Friday is a market holiday.

AAA said gasoline prices are reaching the point where they could have a significant impact on family summer travel -- as they did when prices last rose to more than $4 a gallon in 2008.

"The cost of gas may cause some people to change or altogether cancel their summer vacation plans," AAA said.

The average price has already reached $3.90 in the Washington suburbs, though Baltimore remains at the national and state average. The state's lowest prices are still found on the Eastern Shore, with the Salisbury average standing at $3.66.

The previous record was set in 2008, when the price hit a national record of $4.11.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:10 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: On the roads

April 21, 2011

Maryland woman named MADD national president

MADD, the national organization dedicated to fighting drunk driving, announced Thursday that a Maryland woman who lost her 15-year-old daughter in a crash caused by an intoxicated motorist has been elected its national president.

Jan Withers of Upper Marlboro, who will serve a three-year term at MADD's helm, was introduced at a news conference at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

According to MADD, Withers joined the group in 1992 after her daughter, Alisa Joy, was killed in a crash caused by an underage drunk driver.  Withers, who has served as a MADD volunteer for almost 20 years, will take office July 1.

According to MADD, Withers was an active participant in the successful national and Maryland campaigns to lower the blood-alcohol content level at which a driver is considered drunk from .10 to .08, which has become the national standard. She has served on the national MADD board since 2005.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:50 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads

Road closings for Schaefer memorials announced

The Baltimore Department of Transportation has announced a series of road closings and parking restrictions as part of the memorial services for former Gov. and Mayor William Donald Schaefer next week. The city urges motorists who do not need to be in the areas of the tour Monday and funeral Wednesday to avoid driving there.


During the late afternoon, a procession for Schaefer will travel through the city to some of his favorite destinations, including the Inner Harbor and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, before his body arrives at City Hall, where he will lie in state 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Road closings

Saratoga Street between Gay and Holliday Streets from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Lexington Street between Guilford Avenue and Gay Street from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Holliday Street from Saratoga to Lexington Streets from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

The city said there will be briefer closings of other streets along the tour route.


Schaefer lies in state at City Hall, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Road closings



Funeral for Schaefer will be held at Old St. Paul’s Church at 11 a.m..

Road closings

Fayette Street between Gay and N. Charles Streets from 10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

N. Charles Street between Fayette and Mulberry Streets from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Saratoga Street between Liberty and Charles Streets from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

There  will be briefer closings on streets along the procession routes.


Regular patrons of garages ion the vicinity of the church will have access to them until 9 a.m. From 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., there will be controlled access to the garages.


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

April 20, 2011

Red arrow means no turn no matter which lane

Richard Ulrich of Glen Arm had a question about driving rules, so he posed it to Getting There. While this blogger would like to think of himself as an expert on driving rules, it is the Motor Vehicle Administration that is the actual arbiter. So here's Ulrich's question, with the MVA's answer to follow:

I suspect this has probably come up for discussion before, but just in case it hasn't...

Four of us were having a discussion over breakfast the other day.  We are all 50+, graduate degrees out the wazoo, 160+ years of licensed driving experience in the state of Maryland.  The question was this:

At the intersection of Lombard and Light Streets, the two left-most lanes are turning lanes onto Light St. and each lane has a traffic light signal with left-turn red arrows.  The third lane from the left on Lombard St. is marked for both left-turning as well as continuing straight on Lombard.  The question:  If the two left-turn arrows are red, is a car in that adjacent third lane required to stop in accordance with the red arrows, or is it allowed to proceed without stopping as long as the traffic signal for Lombard St. through traffic is green?

If the car is required to stop, would it then be allowed to make the left turn after stopping, or would the two red arrows trump being able to "turn left after stopping"?

We debated this question without coming to a definitive conclusion. 
What struck me personally was that we couldn't decipher the law sitting down and breakfast, whereas a driver must decide how to react almost immediately.  A couple of our group have witnessed a variety of responses by drivers at the intersection, and of course, those that stop before making the left turn from that third lane during the left-arrows-red/through-traffic-green condition incur the wrath of drivers behind wishing to continue without stopping.

One-caveat:  Being 50+, we couldn't remember if there is any signage posted at the intersection that would provide more direction.

Getting There turned to Buel Young, spokesman for the MVA, for the official ruling. Young came back with the relevant citation from the state traffic code:

Here is the controlling statute...

§21-202. Traffic lights with steady indication

(b) Green indication - Vehicular traffic facing a circular green signal may proceed straight through or, unless a sign at the place prohibits the turn, turn right or left.

(h) Steady red indication - In general.
 (2) Vehicular traffic facing a steady red arrow signal:
  (i) May not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow;
  (ii) Unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by another signal, shall stop at the near side of the intersection..; and
  (iii) . shall remain stopped until a signal permitting the movement is shown.

There you have it. No matter which lane you're in, stay put until you have a green arrow before making a left turn. Of course, the presence of a red arrow didn't keep a jerk who was behind me in Anne Arundel County last year from blasting his horn as I remained stopped and yelling "right turn on red."

You just know he was a person who considered himself an above-average driver.




Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:33 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: On the roads

Downtown projects bring multiple lane closings

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

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:48 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: On the roads

April 19, 2011

Bay Bridge victim was prominent golf writer

The man who was killed Monday when he was thrown from the Bay Bridge in a bizarre traffic crash was a retired golf writer who covered Tiger Woods and some of the other most prominent names in the game for USA Today.

Harry Blauvelt, 70, of Chester on Kent Island (right) was pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center after he was pulled from the Chesapeake Bay late Monday morning. He was hit by his own vehicle, a 2001 Honda, when it was struck by an International truck as the car stood disabled in the right lane of the eastbound span. Blauvelt had left his car when it was struck and pushed into him, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

It was apparently only the second time in the almost 60-year history of the bridge that a person went over the side as a result of an accident. Two other men who had been on the bridge Monday ended up in the water in separate incidents that were not traffic-related. One of them died.

Reid Cherner, Blauvelt's former editor at USA Today and now a reporter there, said Blauvelt retired seven or eight years ago after many years of covering the professional golf tour. His years on the beat coincides with Woods rise to prominence in the game.

"I don't think Tiger won a major without Harry being there," Cherner said.

Cherner remembers Blauvelt as a devotee of films, the TV program The Wire and Navy football.

"Harry was a man of tremendous passion," Cherner said. "When Harry got involved in something he really let you know."

Blauvelt leaves a wife, Ellen, of Kent Island.

Photo courtesy of USA Today



In an ironic twist, Blauvelt was quoted in late 2004 in the Annapolis Capital expressing concern about the Bay Bridge in a public meeting after the disclosure that the Maryland Transportation Authority had been forced to redo faulty paving of the bridge deck after cracks had been found in the new cement.

"Having to do this again is cruel and unusual punishment," said Blauvelt was quoted as saying.

 Blauvelt expressed concern that authority officials were planning to  continue testing the one lane that had not shown cracks in an effort to determine whether they could avoid repaving it.

"Are you doing this by trial and error ... shouldn't you have figured this out by now?" the Capital quoted Blauvelt as saying.

"Harry was not a fan of the bridge," Cherner said.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:31 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

Men killed, injured in Bay Bridge incidents identified

The Maryland Transportation Authority Police have identified the two men killed and one injured in a bizarre series of events Monday on the Bay Bridge.

Killed in a crash in which he was thrown from the eastbound span was Harry Blauvelt, 70, of Chester on Kent Island. Blauvelt, a retired golf writer, was pushed over the Jersey barrier wall when a truck driven by Enos Hutton Sage, 63, of Severn, struck Blauvelt's disabled 2001 Honda in the right lane of the bridge. The truck pushed the Honda into Blauvelt, who had left his vehicle, about 10:30 a.m. and flung him into the water 52 1/2 feet below. He was recovered from the water but pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

At 3:30 p.m., a man left a car in which he was a passenger on the westbound span and went over the side of the bridge near its highest point, 180 feet above the water. A 38-year-old Salisbury resident was killed in the incident, according to transportation authority police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Green.

Green said there were no indications of foul play. He added that the driver was a female relative of the victim.

About three hours earlier, at 12:30 p.m.  another man went over the side about sixth-10ths of a mile from the spot of the later incident. The man, who had apparently abandoned his vehicle on the bridge, was rescued from the water and transported to the Maryland Shock-Trauma Center with what were described Monday as "life-threatening"  injuries. Green said that as of Tuesday the 21-year-old resident of Owings in Calvert County was listed in stable condition.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:52 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

April 18, 2011

3 pulled from water in Bay Bridge incidents; 2 dead

A strange, tragic day on the Bay Bridge resulted in the death of one man thrown from the eastbound span and into the bay when a truck ran into his car and life-threatening injuries to a another man who was died after going over the side of the westbound span. Meanwhile, a third person was pulled from the water under the bridge with life-threatening injuries.

The first incident, in which a truck plowed into the rear of a disabled vehicle about 10:25 a.m., closed the eastbound span for several hours and led to massive traffic backups. The second incident, in which a vehicle was left unattended in the only open westbound lane, blocked traffic in that direction for about a half hour.

Sgt. Jonathan Green, a spokesmen for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said the  crash occurred about halfway between the water's edge on the Anne Arundel County side  and the large curve well-known to users of the bridge. Green said a 2001 Honda Accord broke down in the right-hand lane, the only one open at the time, and its driver left the vehicle.  A 2003 International truck, which was not pulling a trailer, then struck the rear of the Honda and  forced it into the car's driver, pushing him over the Jersey barrier wall and into the water. Green said the bridge deck is 52 1/2 feet above the water at that point.

Green said the 70-year-old victim was pulled from the water by a transportation police marine unit boat that was in the area and taken to a dock near Sandy Point. From there the Anne Arundel County Fire Department took him to Anne Arundel Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, Green said.

The spokesman said police have identified the victim but were not yet releasing his name pending notification of his family.

Green said the truck's driver, a 63-year-old man, refused treatment at the scene. He said a witness to the crash, a 54-year-old woman who was not in either vehicle, was treated for a medical emergency.

Green said the second incident occurred about 12:30 p.m. when a 2008 Toyota sedan was reported unattended in the right lane of the westbound span, which was in two-way operations at the time with the middle lane being used as a buffer. An adult male was recovered from the water below, Green said.

According to the spokesman, the Anne Arundel fire department provided initial treatment before the man was taken to the Maryland Shock-Trauma Center in Baltimore with "life-threatening injuries." He was not identified.

Another unattended vehicle, which Green described as a 2000 Toyota four-door,  was found on the westbound span shortly afterward. Green said that apparent driver was pulled from the water and was pronounced dead.

Kelly Melhem, a spokeswoman for the transportation authority, said the agency would not comment on the reason the man ended up in the water. However, she noted that the authority has a policy against commenting on suicide attempts out of a concern that the "contagion" could lead to other incidents.

In the first crash, Green said the transportation police department's accident reconstruction team is investigating the crash. He said any decision about whether to bring charges would ultimately be made by the Anne Arundel County state's attorney.

The eastbound span was reopened at 1:49 p.m.

Melhem said the authority advises motorists whose vehicles become disabled on the Bay Bridge to remain in their vehicles until emergency assistance arrives.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:41 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

Eastbound Bay Bridge reopened after fatal crash

The eastbound Bay Bridge has reopened after this morning's crash that threw a man into the water. (See below.) That man was pulled from the water and pronounced dead at a local hospital. A second individual who went over the side of the westbound span after apparently leaving a vehicle unattended was taken from the water alive but with life-threatening injuries.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

Lane closings to tie up Conway Street

The Baltimore Department of Transportation has begun a series of lane closings on Conway Street that are expected to tie up traffic on one of the city's major gateways to the Inner Harbor for several weeks.

The full-time closings, which started today, will affect Conway, both eastbound and westbound, between Howard and Charles streets. The city said the closings for construction work are expected to continue for several weeks -- potentially causing backups during morning commuting hours.

The Transportation Department is urging inbound commuters to use Martin Luther King Boulevard to Baltimore or Mulberry streets to bypass the closings. It urged outbound travelers to take Lombard Street to Greene Street to avoid congestion.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:46 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

Second Bay Bridge incident puts another in the bay

A second individual in a single day has eneded up in the water after an incident on the Bay Bridge, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.

According to a spokeswoman, a person was found in the water after a vehicle was found unattended on the westbound span, which was in two-way operation after a crash on the eastbound bridge resulted in another person being thrown into the water. There has been no word on the condition of either individual.

In the crash, which occurred about 10:40 a.m., a truck apparently rear-ended a disabled vehicle, throwing an  individual whho had left that vehicle into  the water.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

Going to the Shore today? Go north

If you are traveling from the Baltimore area to the Eastern Shore today, it might just be time to try the northern route. The eastbound span of the Bay Bridge could remain closed for a couple more hours as a result of a crash this morning (see below), and there are serious backups.

There are several alternate routes to locations on the Delmarva peninsula. The simplest route to the Delaware beaches and Ocean City involves taking Interstate 95 to Delaware Route 1 and heading south. People who don't want to pay Delaware Turnpike tolls can get of I-95 at Route 272 and drive a short distance south to U.S. 40. Take U.S. 40 to Delaware 72 south, which leads to either Delaware 1 (a toll road) or free U.S. 13.

People whose destination is on the Upper Eastern Shore of Maryland should take U.S. 40 to Route 213 south, which joins up with U.S. 301 in Kent County. Free road maps can be obtained at the Maryland House or the Chesapeake House on I-95.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

Eastbound Bay Bridge closed; driver thrown into bay

The eastbound span of the Bay Bridge has been closed because of a crash that threw a person who had left a disabled vehicle into the Chesapeake Bay, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority. The person had been recovered but there was no word on his or her condition.

In a second incident a short time later, a body was recovered from the water after an unattended vehicle was found on the westbound span. A spokeswoman, Kelly Melhem,  said the incident was "apparently unrelated."

As a result of the crash, two-way operations have been implemented on the three-lane westbound span, with one lane open in each direction and the middle lane closed as a buffer.  Melhem said the eastbound bridge is expected to remain closed for a few more hours.  

Melhem said the crash took place about 10:40 a.m. as one of the two lanes of the eastbound bridge was closed for road work. She said a passenger vehicle apparently broke down in that lane and an occupant had left the car when a truck struck its rear, throwing that person into the water.

The crash occurred on the western end of the bridge before it reaches its highest point, the spokeswoman said. "I do imagine the injuries would be substantial," she said.

Melhem said two other persons had been evaluated for possible injuries at the scene.  She did not know their condition, whether they had been transported to hospitals or which vehicles they had been in.

In the second incident, Melhem did not give the cause of the death but noted that the authority's policy is not to discuss suicides because of a concern that publicity creates a "contagion" leading to other incidents. She said the unattended vehicle was found in the right-hand lane, the only one open to westbound traffic at the time. She said the bridge was closed to westbound traffic from 12:35 p.m. to 1:05 p.m.

The morning's incident is apparently only the second time in the bridge's almost 60-year history that a person has gone off the bridge as a result of a crash. The previous incident occurred Aug. 10, 2008, when a tractor-trailer crashed through a barrier wall on the eastbound span. In that case, the truck driver was killed.

The authority recommends that occupants of vehicles that break down on the bridge remain in their cars until emergency assistance arrives, Melhem said.

A live traffic camera focused on eastbound U.S. 50/301 at Sandy Point shows a serious backup, which extends at least as far to the west as St. Margaret's Road. The authority is urging drivers using the bridge to use caution.

Drivers who are heading to the Eastern Shore this afternoon may want to consider using a northern route around the head of the bay. For people traveling from Baltimore to Ocean City or the Delaware beaches, the travel time is often no more than a half hour more than the Bay Bridge route when traffic is flowing freely.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:48 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

April 12, 2011

Driver, 83, ticketed in collision with bicycle

The 83-year-old driver of a car that struck and gravely injured a 20-year-old Johns Hopkins student who was bicycling near the university has been ticketed for two alleged traffic violations, the Baltimore State's Attorney and Police Department said Tuesday.

The decision to charge Jeanette Marie Walke in the crash with Nathan Krasnopoler on Feb. 26 comes despite an initial announcement by police that charges were not expected. That statement brought a flurry of criticism from advocates for Maryland bicyclists, who have long contended that city police are too quick to excuse drivers involved in crashes with bikes.

Walke received two traffic citations -- for negligent driving and failure to yield the right-of-way to a bicyclist in a designated bike lane. However, State' Attorney Gregg Bernstein said an investigation found no evidence of gross negligence, which would be required to justify a felony prosecution for vehicular manslaughter if the victim were to die.


The crash left Krasnopoler in a coma as a result of catastrophic brain injuries. Last week his family said doctors had told them he is not expected to make a meaningful recovery or regain cognitive  function.

The state's attorney's office said the charges each carry a potential penalty of $500 and three points on the driver's license. However, in traffic ticket cases, the driver can resolve the charges by paying a lesser fine without appearing in court.

In a news release, the state's attorney's office and the police stressed that they rake cases involving motorists and bicyclists seriously. "We will prosecute drivers who harm cyclists to the fullest extent of the law," he said.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:17 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bicycles, On the roads

Detour set at Beltway and Charles Street

The State Highway Administration will begin about three weeks of overnight closures of the westbound Beltway at Charles Street tonight to let it install structural steel beams for a new bridge.

Crews will begin the closures Sunday through Thursday nights at 8 p.m. by taking away a single lane. They will close a second lane at 10 p.m. and the remaining lanes from 11 p.m. through 5 a.m.

Traffic will be diverted at Exit 25 to the Charles Street interchange and the roundabout at Charles and Bellona Avenue before rejoining Beltway traffic beyond the bridge area. The eastbound Beltway will have two lanes closed, and the ramp from northbound Charles to the westbound Beltway will be detoured through the roundabout. Closings and detours will be suspended on weekends.

The work is part of the SHA's $43.6 million project to replace the half-century-old Charles Street bridge with a modern, wider structure. The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2012.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:32 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads

Bike advocates cheer manslaughter bill's passage

Advocates for Maryland's bicyclists expressed delight Tuesday that the General Assembly passed a bill creating a new misdemeanor offense for drivers who kill people as a result of serious negligence, giving prosecutors and alternative between traffic charges and felony manslaughter.

The legislation passed both houses in the waning hours of the 2011 session Monday night after the House accepted a Senate amendment crafted to lessen the chance that a driver would serve time in jail for a death caused by routine driving errors.

Proponents say the new charge of manslaughter by criminal negligence, punishable by up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine, fills a gap in the law between simple traffic offenses such as negligent driving and felony automotive manslaughter.

Maryland prosecutors testified that the courts had interpreted the felony manslaughter law so narrowly that it was almost impossible to win a conviction unless the driver could be proven to have been driving while drunk or engaging in a street race.

Survivors of crash victims, including several who were killed while on bicycles, were among the most vocal advocates of the bill.

"We're thrilled, we're absolutely thrilled," said Carol Silldorff, executive director of Bike Maryland.

 The bill also drew support from AAA Mid-Atlantic, which hailed its passage as a victory for traffic safety advocates.

“The legislation changes the penal law and increases criminal penalties for those who drive in an extremely reckless manner that causes a crash which kills someone,” said AAA spokeswoman Ragina Averella. “As Maryland’s law stands now many who kill with a motor vehicle often only face fines and are often not even required to appear in court.”

The measure finally passed the House of Delegates unanimously last month after years of being bottled up in the House Judiciary Committee only to run into a skeptical reception from Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian E. Frosh.

But proponents succeeded in persuading senators to accept a compromise under which the criminal negligence charge was defined as "a gross deviation from the standard of care that would be exercised by a "reasonable" motorist, said Michael Sonnenfeld, a Bike Maryland board member who is a lawyer. He said the language was viewed as a slightly higher standard than the "substantial" deviation called for in the House bill.

Sonnenfeld said the language adopted by the legislature is compatible with the Uniform Penal Code recognized by many other states. As an example of a case where the criminal negligence charge might be applied, he pointed to a fatal crash in which the driver had been speeding 20 mph over the limit while crossing double yellow lines and passing a school bus.

After the compromise language was adopted, the bill passed the Senate 45-1.




Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:03 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bicycles, On the roads

April 7, 2011

Airline analyst says passengers will back Southwest

Southwest Airlines enjoys strong brand loyalty among its passengers and is likely to lose little business as a result of last Friday's emergency landing of a jet with a hole torn in its roof, according to a veteran industry observer.

But what do you think?

Tom Parsons, chief executive officer of, which tracks airline industry trends, said that even with last week's incident and the subsequent cancellation of hundreds of flights, Southwest still has one of the strongest safety records in the industry.

"I think you're playing Russian roulette if you think one airline's safer out there than Southwest," Parsons said. He added that the Southwest crew reacted professionally after the incident, in which one of the airline's Boeing 737-300s developed a hole in its fuselage while in the air over Arizona, and landed the plane without an injury.

"They did everything right when something went wrong," Parsons said.



Parsons said Southwest enjoys strong brand loyalty as a result of customer-friendly policies on fees and handling complaints.

"They still have cash in the bank and they're one of the few airlines that's had a profit for 30-some straight years," he said.

The question is whether Southwest can continue to enjoy that support after a week of reports about cracks in the fuselage of the damaged aircraft and several others.

If you're a regular Southwest flier, Getting There would like to hear from you about BWI's dominant carrier. Are you keeping the faith or has your confidence been shaken.

Please contact Michael Dresser at or at 410-332-6175.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

Ulman: Partisanship impedes transportation funding

After a series of speakers at today's Central Maryland Regional Transit summit bemoaned the state's failure to find a source of revenue to bolster the ailing Transportation Trust Fund, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman got down to the political nitty-gritty from a Democrat's point of view.

Shortly after Greater Baltimore Committee President Donald C. Fry conceded that proposals to raise the state's gas tax or otherwise increase transportation revenue were dead for the year, Ulman put the blame on Republican intransigence and Democratic timidity.

"One of the biggest challenges we have to grapple with is that this has become a partisan issue, Ulman said.

The Howard County chief, who publicly supported a gas tax increase before the idea was pronounced dead, said Democrats such as himself yearn for the days when there were Republicans who would occasionally vote for transportation funding.

In fact, gas tax increases usually managed to draw a smattering of votes from centrist Republicans -- when that breed existed -- up until the last such hike in 1992. But the gas tax has remained at 23.5 cents a gallon since then, steadily losing ground to inflation, as GOP resistance to any tax increases has stiffened.

That doesn't mean Republicans won't vote to raise revenue under certain circumstances. They did so in 2004 when Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was in power and pushed through a measure that relied most heavily on registration fees and left the gas tax be. But when O'Malley proposed an increase in 2007, there wasn't a Republican vote to be found. The measures passed with all-Democratic support, but there's been little enthusiasm since then.

"When there's not one Republican out there, the Democrats say 'we won't hang our heads out there to get chopped off,'" Ulman said. "We've got to get beyond this partisanship unfortunately."

Ulman voiced these thoughts after noting the presence of a reporter and commenting that he probably shouldn't say what he then said. That's generally a sure sign a politician wants his words to be reported.

After a reporter noted that many Republicans say they oppose measures to raise transportation revenue because of an opposition to its being spent on mass transit, Ulman said they should "get over it."

"Everybody who is on a bus or a train is someone who's off the roads," he said. "one way or another people are going to have to find some way to pay for some of these things or else we watch it crumble."

Ulman said legislators aren't hearing enough from businesses that depend on a robust transportation network. He said groups such as the GBC work hard to muster support for transportation but that the CEOs of its member companies are seldom heard from.

Even companies with a critical stake in transportation companies -- such as those that build roads -- have done little to put pressure on recalcitrant politicians or to assure potential supporters they would back them, Ulman said.

For instance, Ulman, said, he has never received a call from a head of a paving company during his years as county executive.




but Ulman said




Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:27 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Politics & transportation

MARC, commuter buses to run during shutdown

If the federal government shuts down because of the current budget impasses, as seems increasingly likely, MARC and commuter bus service will continue on a normal schedule -- at least at first.

The Maryland Transit Administration says that if ridership levels plummet, it might decide to reduce service. But transit riders who work for  non-government employers in Washington -- as well as reverse commuters -- apparently will not be forced into cars because of a shutdown.


The MTA also announced refund policies for government workers who might have to stay home for a spell. Here's the MTA message:

If the government does shut down, all MARC Train and Commuter Bus service will operate as scheduled. In the event of a prolonged shutdown, MTA management will review ridership levels and may consider operating reduced service.

Please also note that in the event of a government shutdown, monthly and weekly ticket refund policies will be in effect for MARC passengers:

--One-way tickets are non-refundable.
--Weekly tickets are refundable if returned no later than 11:59pm the Friday prior to the effective week.
--Monthly tickets are refundable, based on calendar days, as follows: Prior to effective month - 100%, Days 1 thru 5 - 75%, Days 6 thru 10 - 50%, after Day 11 – no refund.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:09 PM | | Comments (1)

April 6, 2011

Roads were built for cars? Not so

Getting There has had a ton of comments on the subject of the respective rights of bicycles and motor vehicles on the road in recent days. One of the most frequent comments has been an variation on the theme of: "The roads were built for automobiles."

The problem: It isn't so. There's no basis for that statement in law or in American history.

Law? There's not a state in the Union that reserves the use of the roads for autos only -- with the exception of limited-access highways. Otherwise, Hummers and Schwinns enjoy equal access (if not throw-weight).

History? Here's a tidbit from

In May, 1880, riding clubs and manufacturers met in Newport, Rhode Island to form the League of American Wheelmen. Its main purpose was for the support of bicycling burgeoning and to protect their interests in Washington D.C. Then in 1891, the League went national and started to publish their magazine known as Good Roads Magazine. The national magazine started to garnish much attention in readership and solidified a movement celebrated as the Good Roads Movement.

That movement gained momentum with the support of auto enthusiasts after 1900, but from the early days of paved roadways in the United States, they were built with bicycles in mind as one of the users.

In many cases, the engineers who designed those roads did a miserable job of adapting them to shared use, but never was it intended that they should be excluded. And there's much to be debated and discussed about how bicyclists and motorists should interact.

But the notion that roads were built for motor vehicles only has never been true. What's happened is that a certain segment of the population that grew up in an era when bicycles were regarded as toys rather than transportation (roughly the 1950s through the 1980s) were ill trained to deal with bicycles on the road. Rather than learning, they have stubbornly resisted the fact they have always been required to share the road.

There's no getting around it: Watching out for bicyclists and interacting with them safety is a basic driving skill. Those who can't do that should seek remedial instruction or stop driving.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:32 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: On the roads

April 5, 2011

O'Malley adds specifics to request for rail funds

Gov. Martin O'Malley has fleshed out his previously announced bid for a chunk of the $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funds spurned by Florida Gov. Rick Scott as Maryland made its formal application for more than $400 million of the money for two state projects.

O'Malley applied for $299 million for the final design and construction of a replacement station and improvements to the rail infrastructure at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The state is offering $41 million in match funds for the project, which would add a fourth track in the station area and build a new pedestrian bridge to serve all tracks. Maryland estimates the project would create 1,830 jobs.

The administration is also seeking $116 million for preliminary engineering and creation of an environmental impact statement for the replacement and expansion of three aging railroad bridges over the Bush, Gunpowder and Susquehanna rivers -- all built between 1906 and 1913 on the Amtrak Penn Line. The state estimates the initial phases of the project will result in 547 jobs.

According to the governor's office, the projects have the full support of Amtrak and other states along the Northeast Corridor.

Scott, Florida's incoming Republican governor, turned down the rail funds earlier this year when he pulled the plug on a proposed high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. The Obama administration has said it will transfer the money to rail projects in other states.





Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads

Circulator posts good numbers, gets compliment

Charm City Circulator Scott Solomon, who not long ago was recounting his grievances with the city's free shuttle services, thought it only fair that he pay tribute to recent improvements.

Solomon pointed to new statistics that show the Circulator maintained an average interval between buses -- known as headway -- in March of 11 minutes, 2 seconds on its two routes. The average ridership was more than 6,000 a day.

"The service has definitely seen an improvement!" said Solomon, a regular rider.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:30 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: City bus service

Bicyclists to ride for manslaughter bill

Bike Maryland will hold a ride from Baltimore to Annapolis Wednesday morning to mobilize support for a bill that would create a new offense of manslaughter by criminal negligence – more serious than a traffic charge but with a lesser penalty than felony vehicular manslaughter.

The bicyclists will leave Baltimore's War Memorial Plaza aboutt 8 a.m.  and take the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail to the state capital, where they are being urged to attend a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The bill has passed the House but the Senate committee's  chairman, Brian E. Frosh, has expressed misgivings about the legislation, saying it could lead to jail terms for people who commit unintentional driving errors.

Among the organizers is Tami Bensky, widow of Larry Bensky, who was killed a year ago when he was struck by a car while bicycling on Butler Road in Baltimore County.

In an email, Tami Bensky told supporters  the woman who struck her husband was fined $500 and given  3 points on her license -- a result she called "pretty pathetic."

"Bottom line is that its painfully obvious that this middle level charge is necessary in cases like Larry's and sadly, so many others," Bensky wrote. She urged supporters to "light up Senator Frosh's phones with overwhelming support for this bill."


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:57 PM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Bicycles, On the roads

Family issues statement on Krasnopoler's condition

The family of Nathan Krasnopoler, the 20-year-old Johns Hopkins student who was struck by a car while bicycling near the university in February, is reporting Tuesday that doctors now have "no hope of a meaningful recovery."

The family's statement, which follows an earlier email from a Hopkins dean to the university community, said physicians have determined that the damage to Krasnopoler's brain is permanent and that he is "not expected to regain any cognitive function."

The statement does not say that Krasnopoler has no brain activity or all or that death is imminent, but it leaves little hope that he will regain consciousness after the Feb. 26 collision with a car driven by an 83-year-old woman who was making a right turn into a driveway off University Parkway.


According to the family, Krasnopoler remains in stable condition but "remains unresponsive due to his brain injury resulting from the lack of oxygen reaching his brain, which was caused by his collapsed lungs and the delayed response due to his entrapment underneath the vehicle."

Here is the full text of the family's statement:

On Feb. 26, 2011, at approximately 11:50 a.m., Nathan Krasnopoler, a
20–year-old sophomore at The Johns Hopkins University, was lawfully riding his
bicycle in a designated bicycle lane traveling northbound on West University
Parkway towards 39th Street in Baltimore City. . A car driven by an 83-year
old woman made an illegal right turn in front of him, cutting off his lane of travel
and causing him to collide with the car, which then ran him over. Nathan’s lungs
collapsed and he stopped breathing while trapped under the vehicle for an
undetermined amount of time. Nathan was extricated by emergency services,
including Fire Department personnel who lifted the vehicle using pneumatic
lifting bags. He sustained third- and fourth-degree burns on his face and torso
from the underside of the vehicle’s engine. He also sustained bone fractures and
minor cuts and bruises. Nathan was taken by ambulance to the Emergency
Department at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in critical condition. The emergency
medical technicians reported that Nathan's heart stopped in the ambulance, but
they were able to revive him.

Initial Care

Nathan arrived at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in a coma due to a brain
injury resulting from the lack of oxygen reaching his brain. He was in the
surgical intensive care unit until March 18, 2011. In the ICU, hospital staff
improved the overall condition of his bodily functions. There were also several
diagnostic tests on his brain function. He has had and will continue to undergo
skin surgeries to treat the severe burns.

Current Condition

Nathan remains unresponsive due to his brain injury resulting from the
lack of oxygen reaching his brain, which was caused by his collapsed lungs and
the delayed response due to his entrapment underneath the vehicle. Nathan is
now in stable condition in a hospital room at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. The
doctors have advised the family that the anoxic brain injury is severe and
widespread. According to the doctors, the brain damage that Nathan sustained as
a result of the accident appears to be permanent and he is not expected to recover
any cognitive function. Based on a series of tests, including a very recent MRI,
the doctors have no hope for a meaningful recovery.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:09 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bicycles, On the roads

Krasnopoler not expected to recover brain function

Nathan Krasnopoler, the 20-year-old Johns Hopkins University student who was struck by a motorist while bicycling on University Parkway in February, is not expected to recover conscious brain function, according to an email sent out by the university.

Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea said the following email from Nicholas Jones, dean of the school of engineering, was released at the request of the family:


We have sad news to report regarding Nathan Krasnopoler, our student who was hit by a car and critically injured on Feb. 26. Nathan's family has informed us that the brain damage that Nathan sustained as a result of the accident appears to be permanent and he is not expected to recover any cognitive function. We are deeply saddened to learn this and ask that everyone join us in keeping Nathan and his family in their thoughts at this very difficult time.

Krasnopoler had been in a coma since the collision. His case has aroused anger among the region's bicycle advocates, who saw the Baltimore police department's original response as inadequate. The police have since promised a thorough investigation.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:56 AM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Bicycles, On the roads

PETA offers ads as toll-reduction plan

Would you object to being greeted at a tollbooth by a sexy young woman clad only in salad if it reduced what you paid? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals thinks not.

The animal rights organization is offering to pay the Maryland Transportation Authority to place an ad promoting a vegan lifestyle at the state's toll facilities, making the case that by accepting that money, the state could reduce a portion of its expected increase in tolls this year.

The ad PETA wants to display at tollbooths shows a healthy-looking young woman wrapped in nothing more than lettuce leaves along with the message: "Meat Takes a Toll on Your Health—Go Vegan."

PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich sent a letter to Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley, the authority's chairman,  extolling the benefits of a diet free of animal products and urging acceptance of the ads.

"The ad revenue will help with the state's budget woes, and the message will save the state and drivers money on health care as commuters shift toward a vegan diet," he wrote.


PETA is well-known for generating inexpensive publicity by offering its provocative ads for use in highly visible venues such as the Super Bowl and getting turned down. But in the process it often gets plenty of free publicity -- including here -- while seldom having to dip into its coffers to actually pay for more than the cost of producing the ad.

Here's a modest suggestion to the authority: Don't reflexively turn PETA down. Let's see if the organization is actually willing to pay enough to have an appreciable impact on the tolls Marylanders pay. Challenge the group to show its offer has some meat on its bones. If it does, why not? Or get them in a bidding war with Esskay for naming rights to the Harbor Tunnel.

The authority is expected to raise tolls this year to meet its commitments to bondholders and to keep up with a growing backlog of maintenance work at its aging toll facilities. The authority's board is expected to make a specific proposal in May.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:11 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

April 4, 2011

BWI closing ramp to I-195, terminal

A ramp leading to the terminal at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has been closed for a reconstruction and repaving project.

The ramp from northbound Route 170 (Aviation Boulevard) to eastbound Interstate 195 is expected to remain closed through next Sunday if the weather doesn't interfere with the project.

Vehicles that would normally use I-195 to reach the terminal from northbound Aviation Boulevard can instead get there using Terminal Road about a half-mile farther north. Detour signs will be in place.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel, On the roads

Work on new Halethorpe MARC station starts

The Maryland Transit Administration has launched a $21 million project to replace the obsolete Halethorpe MARC station, one of the busiest on the Penn Line, with a modern facility.

Gov. Martin O'Malley joined Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and local lawmakers Monday for a ground-breaking at the old Halethorpe depot.

O'Malley said the new station would include new  and longer platforms, ramps, elevators and a pedestrian bridge. It will also include a new kiss-and-ride lot.

The Halethorpe station is the fifth-busiest on the Penn Line, serving about 1,300 passengers a day. The Halethorpe stop serves a wide range of communities in Baltimore city, Baltimore County and the Elkridge area of Howard County.l

The project is expected to address a longstanding lack of facilities for the disabled at the old station and to bring it into compliance with federal law on wheelchair access.


MTA Halethorpe Station

>> Click here to view a PDF of the above image

Photo illustration courtesy of MTA Maryland 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:52 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: MARC train

Impact of Southwest delays at BWI called slight

A round of flight delays at Southwest Airlines to allow inspections of airliners for possible fuselage damage has so far had a minimal impact at BWI Marshall International Airport, according to airport spokesman Jonathan Dean.

Southwest said it expected to cancel about 70 flights nationwide today after grounding about 300 over the weekend. The airline acted after a Southwest flight over Arizona was forced to make an emergency landing Friday after a yard-long hole opened in its fuselage at 36,000 feet. Since then the airline has acknowledged finding cracks in at least two other Boeing 737-300 jets.

Dean did not offer specific numbers of flights canceled at BWI and referred a reporter to the airline. Southwest spokeswoman Christie McNeill said the airline was not releasing information about the impact at specific airports but urged passengers to check before going to the airport to book a flight.

Getting There is interested in hearing from passengers who have been affected by the cancellations at BWI. Please call us at 410-332-6175 or email




Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:52 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Air travel
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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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