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July 28, 2011

First leg of ICC bike trail opens Saturday

The first leg of the bicycle path that will run alongside the partially completed Intercounty Connector will open Saturday in Montgomery County, the State Highway Administration said.

The 2.5-mile section, which will run from Needwood Road to Emory Lane with a connection to Muncaster Mill Road, is part of what will eventually be a network of 11.5 new and 3 miles of reconstructed 3d trails through the ICC corridor. The road itself is open from Georgia Avenue to Interstate 370.

The SHA said it will open more miles of trail as sections of the ICC east of Georgia Avenue are completed. The agency said the bike trails will eventually allow bicyclists to ride from the Shady Grove Metro station in Gaithersburg to the Muirkink MARC station in Laurel.

Cheryl Sparks, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, said construction of the section between Georgia Avenue and Interstate 95 is progressing well because of favorable weather for construction. She said that if good weather continues, that section could open late this year. If not, it would open early in 2012, she said.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:40 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Bicycles

July 27, 2011

Crash victim wonders if city gives a hoot

Emily Chalmers wrote Getting There to share her experiences as a traffic-crash victim in Baltimore. It's enough to make anyone think twice about bringing a car into the city. Here's the story, in her own words:

On Saturday afternoon (July 23), I was in a three-car accident in northeast Baltimore.  I was the collateral damage, my tiny car mashed by a giant SUV that bounced off something that looked like a Sierra van.  Because I was miraculously unhurt, I jumped out of my car and immediately entered what I can only describe as an alternate reality.

First, I grabbed my cell phone to call 911 for an ambulance (the two other drivers were hurt) and police (the cars were blocking an intersection).  To my utter amazement, what I heard was not “Police emergency,” but “Please wait for the next available representative.” I looked at the number I’d dialed to be sure that it was 911; it was.  But when I put the phone back to my ear, I heard again “Please wait for the next . . .”  I don’t know how long I waited, but ultimately I got through, and the ambulance and police arrived.
When I called the mayor’s office to complain, I learned that when the city canceled its 311 service on nights and weekends, it started routing the 311 calls to 911, so the emergency number is often busy.  What?  Some guy is calling to request bulk trash pickup while a girl lies bleeding in the street?  HAS NO ONE IN THE BALTIMORE CITY GOVERNMENT HEARD OF RECORDED MESSAGES DIRECTING PEOPLE TO CALL BACK DURING BUSINESS HOURS?  The mayor’s office seemed entirely unconcerned.  Do you know anything about this situation?
Next, I tried to get the insurance information for the person who’d hit me, who was sitting in his car waiting to be moved.  In my many decades of driving I’d learned that exchanging insurance information was not only routine but necessary.  However, the officer who had his license and insurance cards refused to give me the information.  She said I had to get it from the police report, which I would have to buy.  I was dumbfounded.  I asked her if I could just have the gentleman’s insurance information, as he had admitted fault, and she could see I was the proverbial innocent bystander.  She refused.  Police procedures, she said.
Since Saturday, I have been trying to find out how to get the police report.  I have called the Northeast District, the Mayor’s Office, the Maryland Insurance Administration, Central Records, and the lawyers for the police (now there are some rude folks).  Not only can I not get the information I need—I would be happy with just the insurance information—I can’t get anyone to tell me who made this policy or why it is legal for the police to withhold from me information that I need to file an insurance claim.  Everyone just says that it is police procedure. 
In the meantime, my insurance company is treating this accident as if it were an at-fault collision, since I can’t prove to them it wasn’t. Apparently insurance companies often have to wait 4-6 weeks for a report if they order it.  I can get it faster, but only if I order it on line, and only if the on-line system is working properly.  I tried it. I had to call the Northeast District for help with the officer’s handwriting.  When I asked the officer how to fill out one of the system’s cells, he didn’t know.  Neither did Central Records.  I cannot get a copy from the Northeast District, nor can I get the insurance information, although it’s on file there.
Is it legal for police to refuse me this information, require me to pay for it, force me to deal with an unreliable electronic system, and then deny me access until a “backlog” of reports is cleared up in some dim and distant future?  Do I have any rights left as a citizen in Baltimore?
One of the many city employees I spoke with opined that whether one could get the needed insurance information at the accident scene often depended on who the responding officer was.  Can police officers deny access to needed information that I thought was always readily available? Do they have that power?
Thanks for any light you can shed on these subjects.   I would really appreciate any information.  I also think Baltimore residents should know that these kinds of things are happening—from what I’ve heard from everyone I’ve spoke with, my case is not unusual.
BTW The police lawyers told me that I could write to the Commanding Officer of Written Directives—I am not kidding—for any written policies that might exist on these “procedures.”  He did add, however, that there might not be any.
Emily Chalmers

Normally, with inquiries about the city, Getting There will turn to the Department of Transportation or the Baltimore Police Department for answers. But Chalmers' email seems to touch on a citywide breakdown, which calls for a response from the office of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. So that's where I'll forward this email, in the hope that we can get point-by-point responses to the complaints Chalmers is making.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:21 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: On the roads

July 25, 2011

SHA closing shoulders for pipe repairs

The State Highway Administration has begun one pipe-cleaning project at the Beltway and expects to launch another one Wednesday along U.S. 1 in Halethorpe. Both projects are expected to have a minimal traffic impact.

Already under way is the cleaning and repair of the underground pipes that carry a small stream that flows into Dead Run under the Beltway at Security Boulevard. That job will require the closure of the shoulders of the ramps to and from the boulevard. The work will take place between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday-Thursday until the early fall.

The second project, to start Wednesday, will clean and repair the pipes that carry a tributary of Herbert Run under U.S. 1 (Southwestern Boulevard) between the Halethorpe MARC station and Alternate UU.S. 1 (Washington Boulevard). That work will involve shoulder closings along U.S. 1  during the same hours -- also until early autumn.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

July 22, 2011

Amtrak's role in MARC's woes

Jack Cahalan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, makes a good point in reply to the item below on MARC's Friday night woes. If MARC had a bad night on the Penn Line  -- and it did -- it was largely because of failures of Amtrak equipment.

 More to the point, it was a matter of the laws of physics. Both Amtrak and MARC were dealing with an extraordinary weather event -- the hottest day in these parts in decades. Railroad equipment simply isn't made to function well under these conditions.

 Given that, it could have been worse -- a lot worse. We didn't have a Hell Train incident, even though the temperatures were much higher than on the day of last year's stranding of a MARC train between Baltimore and Washington. Some of the changes MARC has made seem to be making a difference (though the MTA had better see that Amtrak isn't forgetting to stock its trains with water on hot days, as some riders allege.)

 For the record, the only broken-down train reported tonight was  Amtrak's. 

 My suggestion to all MARC riders who can is that when the temperatures soars above 95, have a few beers at Union Station and catch a later train. 



Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:55 PM | | Comments (0)

Police to set up sobriety checkpoint at Bay Bridge

Hitting the bars in Annapolis and then returning to Kent Island is always a bad idea, but it could be an especially costly mistake this weekend.

The Maryland Transportation Authority Police will conduct a sobriety checkpoint Saturday night on the Bay Bridge. The police plan to set up the checkpoint at an unspecified time at the toll plaza on the eastbound bridge.

Drivers who show no signs of intoxication will get a pamphlet. Those who do could wind up in handcuffs.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:42 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities, On the roads

Blazing heat brings MARC meltdown

Compared with recent years, the Maryland Transit Administration hasn't been doing too badly with its MARC service this summer -- until Friday.

With temperatures soaring to well over 100 degrees, the MARC system was plagues by multiple equipment failures that delayed trains up to 75 minutes. The MTA reported that the electric wire that power the trains on the Penn Line were sagging in the heat, forcing single-track operations between Washington and New Carrollton. An Amtrak train that became disabled at New Carrollton had been removed by 6 p.m.

In addition to the usual hot-weather restrictions on the Camden and Brunswick lines, a heat order was issued for the Penn Line holding speeds to 80 mph.

Penn Line Train 443, the 4:50pm departure from Penn Station to Washington, was cancelled, leaving passengers to wait for the 5:20 and 5:25pm trains. The 3:23 p.m. and 4:10 trains out of Washington were running more than 50 minutes late. The 4:20 p.m. out of Washington left Union Station about a half-hour late and was approaching New Carrollton at a crawl, a rider reported. By the time it reached Halethorpe it was running 75 minutes behind schedule. It finally arrived in Baltimore shortly after 6:30 p.m. -- completing a trip of more than two hours.

The 3:30 p.m. Camden Line train out of Baltimore was running a half-hour late as it approached Dorsey on heat-restricted lines that could cause further delays.

With temperatures this high, cascading troubles can be expected through the evening.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: MARC train

State's E-ZPass transponder costs to drop

The multi state consortium that runs the E-ZPass toll collection system has agreed to a deal that would cut the cost of each transponder issued by its member toll authorities, including Maryland's, by more than half.

TollRoadsnews reported that the E-ZPass Inter-agency Group has chosen Kapsch TrafficCom IVHS Inc. as its supplier for the next generation of toll-collection devices.  The Frederick-based  trade publication calculated that Kapsch's bid would lower the per-unit cost of transponders from $20.95 to $8.90.

The deal would presumably give the Maryland Transportation Authority some room to offer its customers a better deal, though the savings are unlikely to have much impact on the record-high toll increases now pending. The total savings for the 10-year life of the contract would  be $482 million split among the 24 toll agencies that make up the E-ZPass consortium.

The group includes toll agencies from as far west as Illinois, as far south as Virginia and as far north as the Canadian border.


The reduction presumably would allow member agencies to charge E-ZPass users less for the transponders they must install in their vehicle to participate in the electronic toll collection program. Maryland now charges $21 per transponder and is expecting a surge in demand because of the impending opening of the second phase of the Intercounty Connector and a pending proposal to offer a 10 percent discount to E-ZPass users at its other toll facilities.

Maryland now sells about 160,000 of the units each year.

Authority spokeswoman Kelly Melhem confirmed that the agency plans to share its savings with customers. Details of how those savings would be shared would be up to the authority's board.

The new contract could let the authority give a small break to holders of decals that let motorists use the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge over the Susquehanna River to use that facility at a sharp discount. The authority's toll plan would put an end to the decal system and require drivers who want the Hatem discounts to pay through the E-ZPass system -- a measure that brought loud protests at public hearings in Harford and Cecil counties. Under the proposal as stands, those customers would have to pay $21 for a new transponder.

Mehlem said she could not predict what the board would decide but indicated that members would be looking at the possibility of giving Hatem users a break on the transponder price.

"It is certainly going to be looked at based on the comments received in that part of the state," she said.

Kapsch prevailed in a competition in which four companies participated, although one was disqualified because its bid did not fit the contract criteria. The draft contract calls for Kapsch to supply and service equipment for 10 years, though member toll authorities will have an option to seek competitive bids after four.

TollRoadsnews reported that the authority expects to buy about 40 million transponders over the next 10 years.

According to the inter agency group, the new transponders will be smaller and "sexier" than thhe current model.

Delays in the procurement process have forced members to extend their current contracts with Kapsch into 2012. Maryland's Board of Public Works is scheduled to consider an extension of the current contract with Kapsch until next August, after which the new contract would likely take effect.

The Maryland authority said the procurement was especially complicated because it involved many members spread across 14 states.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:47 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

July 20, 2011

Bike Maryland to hold second 'Larry's Ride'

Bike Maryland will hold its second "Larry's Ride and Run" Sept. 24 in memory of Larry Bensky, a bicyclist who was killed last year while pedaling through a semi-rural area of northern Baltimore County.

The Saturday event, which will last from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., will raise money for Bike Maryland's advocacy efforts for bicycle safety. Bensky's death April 6, 2010 on Butler Road, helped provide some of the impetus for the final passage of a 3-foot buffer bill that was adopted by the General Assembly that year. The 43-year-old Bensky, who was struck by a passing car, left a wife and two daughters.


The event will include rides of 63, 35 and 15 miles as well as a 3.6-mile run. The 63-mile event departs Spring Meadow Farms in Upperco at 7:30 a.m., the 35-mile ride at 9:30 a.m. and the shorter ride and run at 10:30.

The cost for advance registration is $34 for bike riders, $43 the day of the race. For runners and other participants, the cost is $20 in advance and $25 at the farm. 15513 Hanover Pike.

For information and registration, click here.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:56 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Bicycles

Motorcycle parking in Baltimore isn't EZ

Matt Bezanson of Hampden is a motorcyclist who finds it frustrating that Baltimore's vaunted new parking system, while in many ways an improvement over meters, is not kind to folks on two wheels. Here's what he asked Getting There.

My Question: Are there any changes planned for Baltimore City's EZ Park system to accommodate motorcycles? It has come to my attention that motorcycles are expected to use the same paper ticket as cars but there is now way to secure these tickets to a bike AND make them easily visible for the people writing parking tickets. 

Background Info: I am in the process of attaining my motorcycle license and purchasing a bike. My main motivation for purchasing a bike is the fact the gas mileage is on average double that of a passenger car. My job has recently changed locations which has greatly increased my commute.
I can't understand why a city wouldn't want to encourage the use of motorcycles, the take up much less space than a car which would help alleviate both parking and traffic congestion as well as lowering the carbon footprint of the city. Please help!
Thank you for your time, any help / guidance with this issue would be greatly appreciated.
Matt Bezanson

Not knowing the answer, I forwarded Bezanson's questions to Peter Little, executive director of thhe Baltimore Parking Authority. Little was gracious enough to respond quickly, but his reply wasn't terribly encouraging to Bezanson and probably won't be to other motorcyclists. Here's what he had to say:

The Parking Authority is working on a plan to designate some on-street parking spaces in various business districts for motorcycle parking.  These spaces will have single-space parking meters that do not require the display of a parking receipt.  We will be rolling that program out in the next few months.
Also, motorcyclists may park in any of the City-owned public garages.  If Mr. Bezanson will be commuting into the City, then it would probably make better sense for him to have a monthly parking contract in one of our garages.  It will be less expensive and the vast majority of on-street parking meters have short-term parking durations (from 30 minutes to 4 hours) and are not intended for all-day commuter parking.  We will reach out to Mr. Bezanson to explain this option.
The EZ Park meter program has been a big success with parkers and businesses/merchants. 
Below are some of the reasons parkers appreciate the EZ Park meter program:
•         They can use a credit card or debit card to pay for paying, and not just coins
•         They get a receipt (i.e. for business reimbursement or tax filing purposes)
•         They can more easily find a space to park.  Because parking spaces are no longer delineated by single-space meter placements, between 10% and 15% more vehicles can park in each block.
Below are some of the reasons businesses/merchants appreciate the EZ Park meter program:
•         Because parkers can use a credit card or debit card to pay for parking, far fewer of them are asking businesses to “make change” for them in order to pay for parking.
•         More of their patrons can find a convenient place to park on-street in front of their businesses because parking spaces are no longer delineated by single-space meter placements, meaning 10% and 15% more vehicles can park in each block.
•         More beautiful streetscapes.  Because each EZ Park meter replaces anywhere from 7 to 15 single-space parking meters, there is less “street clutter”.
I hope this information is helpful.
Thank you.

Bezanson was quick to read beyond the boilerplate and the happy talk and to reach the bottom line: The EZ Park system just wasn't designed for motorcycles and the city has found no way around it. You're not going to win many points with bikers by singing the praises of a system from which they feel excluded.

Little might have been better off if he stopped after the first paragraph, which may contain a nugget of good news. If motorcycle spaces are created in all the places where EZ Park is available to cars, that would go a long way toward resolving the problem. But here's how Bezanson saw the reply:

It appears that the parking authority has no intentions of making the EZ Park system available to motorcyclists. This is unfortunate since motorcycle usage has many benefits for the city (i.e. - less traffic congestion, less parking congestion, reduced carbon emissions, etc.). As Mr. Little has stated the EZ Park system offers a lot of benefits for the city, merchants and car parkers alike. I realize these benefits first hand when I street park my car in areas where this system is used. However, motorcyclists do not see any of the benefits that were listed in the email below.

Little added, by way of clarification, what strikes me as good news:

Our intent is to place the motorcycle parking spaces in areas where there are, or will be, EZ Park meters.  We will also continue to explore ways to make it easier for motorcyclists to use the EZ Park meters themselves.

When the Parking Authority first contemplated the EZ Park meters (before I came to the Parking Authority), other municipalities that had installed them had indicated that theft of receipts from motorcycles (often placed in the crease between the gas tank and the seat) was rare.  We’ve found that to be the case as well.  However, we do acknowledge that it is a real possibility and that, until we find that technological solution, we will be creating motorcycle parking areas that don’t require motorcyclists to use EZ Park meters.

Hey, if anyone has a bright idea of how to overcome that receipt-theft problem, patent it fast before someone else comes up with a solution.




Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:54 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: On the roads

July 19, 2011

Poll shows U.S. drivers distracted by dogs

U.S. driving skills are going to the dogs.

That's the gist of a new survey by AAA and the pet product company Kurgo that examined the driving habits of American dog owners. The study finds that drivers are frequently distracted by their canine passengers in multiple ways: from restraining them to feeding them to driving with them on their laps.

The survey shows that during the past year, 56 percent of dog owners have driven with their pets at least once a month. But only 16 percent of them use a pet restraint device -- a safety measure advocated by the AAA.

"Drivers should use a pet restraint system every time their dog is in the vehicle," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Christine Delise. "A restraint will not only limit distractions, but also protect the driver, the pet and other passengers in the event of a crash or sudden stop.”


Petting the pooch is the most common form of dog distraction, with 52 percent of dog owners reporting doing that while driving. Almost one in four -- 23 percent -- say they've used their hands or arms to protect their pets while braking. Nineteen percent have used hands or arms to prevent dogs from invading the front seat, the poll found.

Less common, but perhaps more dangerous, activities include reaching into the backseat to interact with their dogs (18 percent), holding or allowing a dog to sit in the driver's lap (17 percent) and feeding a dog (13 percent).

According to the survey, dog owners are indulging in these practices even though they know them to be unsafe. According to the poll, 83 percent of dog owners are aware that an unrestrained dog in a moving car presents a danger.

According to the survey, 42 percent of the owners say they do not use a restraint device because they believe their dog is calm. But AAA points out that a dog, whether calm or frenetic, can be thrown in a crash or a sudden stop -- posing a hazard  to both human and canine occupants of the vehicle.

“An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert roughly 300 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of pressure. Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in its path,” said Delise.

AAA said other reasons given for not using a restraint include never having considered it (39 percent), taking the dog only on short trips (29 percent) and wanting to let the dog hang its head out the car window.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:45 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: On the roads

July 18, 2011

SHA closing parkway at intervals for bridge work

The southbound Baltimore-Washington Parkway will be narrowed to a single lane Tuesday night an Wednesday morning as work crews remove two steel beams from the old Hammonds Ferry Road bridge.

The work will begin at 10 p.m. and continue until 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. Beginning at midnight, there will be occasional 15-minute closings of all southbound lanes. The State Highway Administration is urging drivers heading from Baltimore to the BWI Marshall Airport area to use Interstate 95, Interstate 97 or Route 170 as alternate routes.

The beam removal is part of a $2.9 million project to rehabilitate the Nursery Road and Hammonds Ferry Road bridge over the parkway (Maryland Route 295) in Anne Arundel County.


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

Painting projects begins on Hatem Bridge

The Maryland Transportation Authority has begun a $10.8 million painting project as part of its effort to preserve the 71-year-old Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge.

Contractors will be cleaning and painting  parts of the steel above the top of the bridge piers, parts of the overhead truss and some areas below the bridge surface.

Drivers can expect single-lane closures Monday through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. is expected to be completed in late 2012. The last painting project at the bridge took place in 1990.

The aging bridge has been costing the state's toll-payers a lot more money to maintain in recent years than it ever took to build it in the first place. The authority recently completed a $66.8 million re decking project, and a $54.3 million underwater repair project is scheduled to begin this fall.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

July 15, 2011

Bay Bridge getting a paint job

The westbound span of the Bay Bridge is getting a much-needed paint job -- at a cost of $19.5 million for the first phase alone.

The Maryland Transportation Authority announced  that on or about Monday it expects to launch  the long-planned project to give the westbound bridge its first full-scale cleaning and  painting since it opened in 1973.

Painting a span such as the Bay Bridge isn't just a matter of cosmetics. The paint itself serves to protect the girder spans from corrosion. and extend the life of the bridge. The first step in the work is removal of the existing paint.


The authority said it will minimize the traffic impacts by doing much of the work from barges. Butt it said some of the work -- such as painting railings and moving equipment -- will require off-peak lane closures.

The project, which will be carried out by Atsalis Brothers Painting Co. of Warren, Mich., is expected to continue through fall 2012.

The first phase of the work will be done on the section approaching the western end, Phase two, which will include the suspension spans and towers at the bridge's high point, is expected to start in spring 2012 at an estimated cost of $15.7 million. Two additional phases are planned for 204 and 2016.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:21 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

July 14, 2011

SHA seeks to add $1.9 million for U.S. 40 work

The State Highway Administration has asked the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board to add $1.9 million to its 2011-2014 plans for preliminary engineering of improvements to U.S. 40 in the Middle River area -- a stretch of road that could certainly use some loving care.

The regional board said Thursday that it is seeking public comments through Aug. 10 on the SHA's proposal to allocate funds for the project on the 1.7-mile stretch of U.S> 40 between Middle River Road and Maryland Route 43 (White  Marsh Boulevard).

The proposed improvements would include replacement of the jersey barriers that now form the median with a more-eye-pleasing divider. The highway agency is also proposing safety improvements, including some for pedestrians and bicyclists.

A public meeting on the project will be held July 28 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the White Marsh Library, 8133 Sandpiper Circle.

Comments can also be sent to



Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:58 PM | | Comments (0)

July 13, 2011

BWI posts traffic record for May

BWI Marshall Airport recorded its strongest May ever as almost 2.1 million passengers passed though its terminals that month --- a 6.8 percent increase over its previous record set in May 2010.

BWI officials said it was their 12th record-setting month in the last 13. They said airport traffic has risen for 23 of the past 24 months -- interrupted only by the blizzard-affected month of February 2010. The gain was largely driven by a 12.5 percent increase in Southwest Airlines traffic over May 2010, officials said. For the most recently available 12-month period, the airport served a record 22.4 million passengers -- up 6.2 percent from the same period a year earlier.

BWI officials said May's gains were partly driven by a 12.5 percent increase in traffic at Southwest Airlines, the airport's dominant carrier.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:37 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

July 12, 2011

SHA to hold meeting on Wilkens bridge project

The State Highway will hold an informational meeting Wednesday in southwestern Baltimore County on a large bridge replacement project that is about to get under way at Wilkens Avenue and the Beltway.

According to the agency, the purpose will bet to update residents and commuters  about the replacement of the 55-year-old Interstate 695 Inner Loop bridge over Wilkens, which is expected to start next month.

The meeting will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Halethorpe Elementary School cafeteria
4300 Maple Avenue, The agency said residents can arrive any time in that period to ask questions and to view information about the project.

The  bridge over Wilkens, built in 1956 and widened in 1963, is one off several being replaced on the Beltway. The Charles Street, Liberty Road and Frederick Road bridges are also in various stages of their replacement projects. In 2004, the SHA replaced the Outer Loop bridge over Wilkens Avenue as part of a project to widen the it to four lanes between Frederick Road and Interstate 95. 

The agency said the existing Inner Loop bridge will be razed and replaced in three stages.  It said all through lanes on that loop and two on Wilkens will be kept open during peak travel hours on weekdays. A temporary signal will be installed at Wilkens and Kenwood avenues to manage traffic during closures.

The agency said people with questions about the project can call the SHA District Four Office at 410-229-2300 or 1-866-998-0367 or reach it by email at

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

July 8, 2011

Parkway lanes to close this weekend

The Baltimore-Washington Parkway will be reduced to one travel lane in each direction overnight Saturday and Sunday as the State Highway Administration continues its demolition work on the Hammonds Ferry Road bridges,

The northbound parkway (Maryland 295) will be closed from the Beltway to Interstate 195 except for one lane at 9 p.m. Saturday and will reopen by 10 a.m. Sunday. The southbound parkway will not be reduced to a single lane until Monday to allow traffic to leave the Monster Truck Show at the Ravens stadium. The closed lanes will also reopen by 10 a.m.

On Sunday, traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction from 8 p.m. until about 4 a.m.

The work involves removal of the bridge parapet walls and the stone facade as part of a bridge rehabilitation project. The highway agency said the lane closings must start before the actual work zone for the safety of workers and motorists.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

Light, Conway lanes to close for Grand Prix work

Baltimore motorists face another couple weeks of closures related to the Labor Day weekend Grand Prix race as the city Department of Transportation blocks off lanes of Light and Conway streets.

The closings on Light will begin Monday at 6 a.m. in the northbound lanes between Key Highway and Pratt Street. They are expected to continue for about two weeks. According to the city, two northbound lanes will remain open for commuters.

In addition, contractors are expected to begin paving Conway Street, where the old asphalt has been scraped off. Spokeswoman Kathy Chopper said that work is expected to take place Tuesday through Thursday if weather permits. She said the work would involve lane closings but did not yet have details on the times.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:23 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads

July 7, 2011

MARC Penn Line train breaks down in heat

For the second time this week, a MARC Penn Line train has wilted in the summer's heat, leaving passengers sweltering on a stalled train, ride Danielle Shapiro reports.

Shapiro said the northbound train's engine apparently gave out just outside Odenton and left passengers stuck without air-conditioning for about 35 minutes this evening. She said that as of 6:15 p.m. it appeared to be starting again.

Two days ago another Penn Line Train departing Washington stalled out and left passengers stranded for about 40 minutes, Shapiro said.

Summer is historically the time of year that brings MARC to its knees. The Maryland Transit Administration had made schedule and equipment changes in the hope of alleviating such problems, but the recent incidents raise questions about whether those measures are working.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:13 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: MARC train

July 5, 2011

ICC's price tag in the spotlight

Peter Samuel, editor and publisher of TOLLROADSnews, has taken a close look at the relative costs of building Maryland's Intercounty Connector and Texas' Sam Rayburn Tollway outside Dallas.

The ICC's price tag -- $2.6 billion. The Rayburn Tollway -- $1.4 billion. One the basis of cost per lane-mile, the ICC looks even more expensive. It came in at $23 million per lane-mile compared with $6.1-$9.2 million for the Texas road, depending on how one calculates mileage.

Some of the reasons are simply a matter of Maryland being Maryland and Texas being Texas. As Samuel notes, the Texas highway faced little environmental opposition. In Maryland, the environmental issues were so serious they blocked the ICC's construction for more than four decades.

I'm also not sure that Samuel gives enough weight to some of the design challenges in building the ICC. Some of the "streams" he refers to are rather broad valleys.

Still, TOLLROADSnews is raising some issues that ought to provoke questions from the Maryland General Assembly.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:44 AM | | Comments (2)
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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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Michael Dresser How-Tos

How to avoid Delaware traveling north
Obscure third route between Baltimore, D.C.
Better routes for I-95 north
How to avoid the Bay Bridge
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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.) (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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