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August 24, 2011

Getting There taking vacation break

The Getting There blog will be taking a long-awaited break starting Thursday, doing a little field research on transportation in other parts of the world on a project also known as a vacation.

I expect to return on or about Sept. 14.

I will, of course, be thinking of my fellow Baltimoreans as they struggle with the traffic challenges of Baltimore's inaugural Grand Prix. Unfortunately (smirk), plans were made long ago to be absent over Labor Day weekend.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:43 PM | | Comments (0)

SHA to inspect Southern Maryland bridge

The State Highway Administration said one of the bridges that will receive extra attention after Tuesday’s earthquake is the Thomas Johnson Bridge that carries Route 4 over the Patuxent River between Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.

The bridge, one of the state’s longest, will undergo inspections Wednesday and Thursday. Crews will alternate eastbound and westbound traffic to give inspectors room to work safely. Flagging operations will be in effect between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. both days.

The agency said structural engineers will inspect the 34-year-old bridge using a large crane with a bucket on an arm extending over the side and under the bridge. Officials said a truck will have to be parked in one lane of the bridge to permit a safe inspection.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:18 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

Group raising funds to support Red Line

A group of Baltimore residents will hold a pro-Red Line pep rally tonight in a hotbed of opposition to the proposed light rail tonight to raise money to advocate for the project.

The Red Line Now PAC will hold its event at 6 p.m. at the Field House Pub at 2400 Boston Street in Canton, where many local residents have protested plans to run trains along the surface of that street.

"This is one of the few issue-driven political action committees created by everyday Baltimore citizens, and the only one to focus on transit," said Robbyn Lewis, the organization's chairperson. "We want this project to be the best it can be."


The group said it is made up of citizens volunteers who live along the planned route of the Red Line, which would run from Woodlawn through downtown to Bayview. The organization says it is not affiliated with any political groups or candidates but will concentrate it efforts of promoting the Red Line.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:27 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Red Line

August 19, 2011

Fort Avenue Bridge to close Monday

The long-awaited replacement of the deteriorating Fort Avenue Bridge will begin Monday, when the Baltimore Department of Transportation will close the 91-year-old structure to vehicle traffic for most of the next year.

The $6 million reconstruction project on the main route to Fort McHenry is expected to be finished next spring -- in time for the the activities planned for the bicentennial of the War of 1812. The project is being jointly funded by the city and CSX, which owns the railroad tracks the bridge crosses.

The transportation department said it has deployed variable message and detour signs in the neighborhood to inform motorists about the closing. While the bridge is closed to vehicles, traffic to Fort McHenry and other destinations at the end of the peninsula will be detoured onto Key Highway and Hull Street. During construction, pedestrians will still be able to use a walkway on one side of the bridge.

City officials said they have made contingency plans to maintain emergency services while the bridge is close to vehicles. According to the transportation department, an emergency alert system will notify residents by email, voice mail or text messages when a train is expected to block access routes for more than 10 minutes.

The city will provide updates for the community at






Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

August 18, 2011

Inner Loop reopens after oversize-load mishap

The Inner Loop of the Beltway has reopened after being closed or narrowed down for about two hours because an oversized load struck the Crosby Road overpass near Woodlawn.

 State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar said the incident occurred about 12:20 p.m. and involved an oversized aluminum container. He said the impact destroyed the container but did only minor damage to the bridge. Gischlar said the truck had an oversized-load permit.

 Gischlar said it was the second incident involving an oversized load and an over pass in the last two weeks. The previous incident occurred at the Capital Beltway and Forestville Road in Prince George's County. 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

Region has 6,000+ with no car, no transit access

The greater Baltimore region has more than 6,000 household that lack either a car or access to mass transit services, according to a report released Thursday by the Brookings Institution.

That number is overshadowed by the more than 114,000 regional households that own no vehicles but do have access to transit. That puts the region at 94.6 percent coverage for zero-vehicle households -- coming in 20th out of 100 metropolitan areas around the country.

The Baltimore numbers do show a significant gap between the city and the suburbs in transit access for such households, most with low family incomes. While the city has 100 percent transit coverage, according to Brookings, 85.1 percent of no-vehicle households in the suburbs have such access.

When it comes to providing no-vehicle households with access to jobs, the region doesn't fare as well.  The report days Baltimore provides 42 percent of no-vehicle households with access to jobs -- ranking 32nd out of 100. Of those households, 50.3 percent are in the city and 23.7 percent in the  suburbs.


Nationally, the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program found that 7.5 million household in the 100 largest metro areas have no access to a private car. Of those, it found, 700,000 have no access to public transit.

The report, based on U.S. Census American Community Survey data, found that a disproportionate number of those no-car, no-transit households are in the suburbs and in the South.

Those with access to neither face increasing challenges in getting to work, the report said. It noted that employment has become increasing dispersed over the past three decades as the nation has added more than 655,000 new roadway lane-miles since 1980.

The metropolitan area with the best transit access was Honolulu, followed by Los Angeles, New York, San Jose and San Francisco. At the bottom was Greenville, S.C., where only 45.9 percent of the no-car households had transit access.


August 17, 2011

Hanover Street bridge to open

The Hanover Street drawbridge will be opened at about 1 p.m. for about 30 minutes, according to the Baltimore Department of Transportation. Delays are expected. Motorists may want to use Maryland 295 and Waterview Avenue as an alternative.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:15 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads

August 16, 2011

Bicylists should be aware: They can kill too

Bicyclists tend to think of themselves as the road's good guys. They use less fuel, pollute leass and exposed themselves to more risks than drivers. And, for the most part, they pose a minimal threat to others.

 But not always. A National Public Radio story out of San Francisco reminds us that bicycles can kill too when they are not operated safely. Bicycles may be the lightest vehicles on the road, but they are still vehicles and can reach deadly speeds. And pedestrians are just as vulnerable to speeding bicycles as bicyclists are to recklessly driven cars.

From my observations, Baltimore's bicyclists can really use this reminder. All too often, bicyclists here act as if no laws apply to them -- especially at red lights. Most organized bicycle groups are very safety-conscious, and will likely want to pass this news item along to their members.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:30 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bicycles

August 15, 2011

Delegation members announce grants for Baltimore

A new Charm City Circulator route to Fort McHenry and a road project intended to reconnect West Baltimore communities divided by the "Highway to Nowhere" will receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, four members of the Maryland congressional delegation announced.

U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikuslki and Benjamin L. Cadin, along with U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes said the grants will provide $1.6 million for the new Circulator route and $1.7 million for the reconfiguration of the Fulton Avenue bridge in the part of the  U.S. 40 corridor known as the Highway to Nowhere.

The Circulator grant is expected to help the city get its free "Star Spangled" route in operation in time for the bicentennial observance of the War of 1812. The new route is expected to run from the Inner Harbor to the fort along Fort Avenue on a year-round basis. The grant will be used over three years and will cover 65 percent of the route's cost.

The West Baltimore project will reconfigure the five-lane Fulton bridge to integrate it with a pedestrian-bicycle network and to add landscaping and storm water management improvements. According to the delegation members, the project had been launched but was put on hold when funds ran short.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:52 PM | | Comments (4)

August 12, 2011

New BWI scanners avoid 'virtual strip search'

The Transportation Security Administration has replaced the software on its enhanced imaging screening devices at BWI Marshall Airport to avoid the explicit body images that some privacy advocates had labeled a "virtual strip search."

BWI is one of several airports nationally where the new software is now operational. Under the new system, if something suspicious is detected by the scanner, it shows up as a small yellow box on a generic body image that both the TSA screener and the passenger can see. The TSA said it will no longer need to have an officer in a room off checkpoint scanning a projection of each passenger's individual form.

TSA spokesman Kawika Riley said the new technology is being deployed at 40 airports around the country with a total of about 240 machines. BWI now has 10 of the devices, deployed at Piers A, B, D and E.

The new software will be installed in all of the TSA's millimeter-wave Advanced Imaging technology machines. Riley said the agency is still working on developing technology that could be used with another form of advanced imaging known as "backscatter" machines.

Riley said the new program will cost roughly $2.7 million to deploy at the 40 airports, but he said the agency should be able to recoup much of that money through savings in staffing and maintaining the separate rooms for viewing the images.



The previous software, which generated an image that distinctly showed individual bodily attributes under a passenger's clothing, was widely resented by travelers -- sometimes for political and religious reasons.

TSA and BWI officials expressed hope the new technology would allay some of the concerns raised by privacy advocates.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:53 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Air travel

August 11, 2011

Camden Line disruptions for Grand Prix outlined

Riders of the MARC Camden Line will face disruptions in their usual access to their trains at Camden Station for two working days as the city stages its inaugural Grand Prix downtown auto race during the week leading up Labor Day.

MTA spokesman Terry Owens outlined the hurdles Camden riders will face in response to an inquiry posed by a Sun reader who had been having difficulty obtaining accurate information about the effects of the Grand Prix, which will use the Camden Yards area as part of the race course.

Owens said Camden MARC riders will be unable to use the parking lots or the kiss-and-ride area at Camden Yards on Sept. 1-2, a Thursday and Friday.

On that Friday, the first day of racing, riders will face even stricter access curbs in reaching Camden Station. Owens said riders will only be admitted to the platform area if they have a valid MARC pass or a ticket that has been purchased in advance. He said the only access point from the north side of the platform will be at Eutaw Street near Pratt Street. From the south, riders' only entry point will be at Eutaw near Lee Street, he said.


Service is expected to operate normally Monday-Wednesday of that week.

Camden riders are being encouraged to consider switching to the Penn Line or driving to Dorsey station, for those days, Owens said. He said riders who normally park or are dropped off at Camden Stat ton should also consider taking the light rail to either the Hamburg Street or University Center stations and walking to the entry points. The light rail system will not be operating between those two stations during the race.

One question Owens could not answer -- at least right off -- was why the MTA ever agreed to go along with an event that will be so disruptive to its customers. How exactly does an auto race fit in with the MTA's core mission of getting people where they need to go? If a policy determination was made that the event's payoff is worth the aggravation, the official who made that decision should stand up and take the credit or the blame.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:30 PM | | Comments (10)

Sinkhole closes lane on I-70 at Frederick

The discovery of a sinkhole along Interstate 70 in Frederick has prompted the State Highway Administration to close the right lane of the eastbound highway so that crews can fill it with cement and rocks, the agency said.

The highway agency said it hopes to complete work on the stretch between Route 85 and South Street by the morning rush hour.  SHA spokesman Dave Buck said the sinkhole was discovered in the shoulder of I-70 but said the crews needed access to the right lane to make repairs. The llane was closed about 3 p.m.

Sinkholes are a perennial problem in that area of Frederick, particularly within 3 miles of the LaFarge quarry, Buck said.  There have been previous road closings along I-70  related to the Swiss cheese-like geological formations in the area.

The agency is urging motorists to use the Route 85 interchange to take East Street to Route 144 (Patrick Street) to reach the interstate and avoid the work site.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads

Prospects for 2011 ICC opening appear bright

In their officials statements, Maryland officials continue to estimate that the second and most important phases of the Intercounty Connector will open late this year or early in 2012. But having had favorable weather for much of the spring and summer, they are showing signs of optimism that the section completing the link between Interstate 270 and Interstate 95 will open sometime this year.

"We're optimistic about this year," said ICC project spokesman Ray Feldmann. He said officials might have a better fix on the opening date later this month.

The section of the $2.6 billion ICC between Interstate 370 (which feeds into I-270) and Georgia Avenue opened early this year. Contractors are working on the section between Georgia and I-95. Two other phases of the toll road project -- building feeder roads from I-95 and an extension to U.S. 1 -- have been deferred.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:27 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads

August 10, 2011

Bicyclist struck near Hopkins in Feb. dies

Nathan Krasnopoler, the Johns Hopkins University student who was struck and critically injured by a car while riding his bicycle along University Parkway in February, died Wednesday morning at Gilchrist Center in Howard County, his family announced.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the family said the 83-year-old driver who struck Krasnopoler has agreed to forfeit her license.

Krasnopoler, a 20-year-old sophomore, never regained consciousness after suffering brain injuries when he collided Feb. 26 with a car that turned into his path. According to the family, he died peacefully with his family by his side almost a week after after entering hospice care Aug. 4.

A Baltimore woman, Jeannette Marie Walke of Baltimore pleaded guilty May 11 to negligent driving and failure to yield right of way to a bicyclist in a designated lane. She paid a fine of $220, about half the amount she could have been penalized has a police officer not made a mistake in writing  the citations, without appearing in court.

The case provoked intense interest among Baltimore-area bicyclist after a Baltimore police spokesman initially indicated that no charges would be filed. The Baltimore State's Attorney's Office decided after an investigation that charges were warranted.

Andrew Slutkin, a lawyer for the Krasnopoler family, said a $10 million lawsuit  filed against Walke was settled several weeks ago.

Slutkin said the monetary amount of the settlement is confidential but added that "there was a significant recovery from the driver that recognized how special Nathan was." In an unusual twist, the attorney said the settlement comes from the defendant's own assets as well as her insurance company's. He said that was the first time he has seen that happen in 20 years of practice.

As part of the settlement, Slutkin said, Walke agreed at the insistence of the Krasnopoler family to permanently give up her driver's license.

"They would not consider any settlement that allowed her to continue driving," he said. "She's off the road permanently, which is a good thing."

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:51 PM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Bicycles, On the roads

August 4, 2011

MTA adds to fleet of hybrid buses

The Maryland Transportation Administration is expanding its fleet of diesel/hybrid buses with a purchase of 12 in a purchase from New Flyer, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced.

The purchase of the dozen 60-foot, articulated buses brings the MTA's hybrid fleet to 193, or 27 percent of its total. The number of hybrid 60-footers will grow from 30 to 42.

The agency is in the process of converting its entire fleet to the fuel-saving hybrids. It is scheduled to add 57 more in early January. While the buses cost more than conventional diesel vehicles, MTA officials say they save 20 percent on fuel, cost less for maintenance and travel farther on the same set of brakes.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:18 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: MTA bus system

August 3, 2011

State sets up speed zone in Frederick County

If you're traveling between Frederick and Washington, you'd better watch your speed.

 The State Highway Administration has deployed speed cameras in a work zone on Interstate 270 at Maryland Route 80 in Fredrick County. The cameras are already being used to generate warnings and will begin issuing citation Aug. 23 for violators of the 55-mph work zones speed.

The speed camera zone is the eight in Maryland and the second in Frederick County to be launched under a state law permitting the highway agency to use automated enforcement in work zones. Motorists must be going 12 mph or more over the limit to receive camera-generated tickets. The SHA said warning signs and electronic speed indicators will be prominently placed in advance of the work zones.

The I-270 speed crackdown comes as the agency is planning a major traffic shift in which it will divert northbound I-270 onto a temporary bridge  in the highway median. Traffic will use the temporary span as the state removes and replaces the existing bridge deck.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

August 2, 2011

Gulag on the Patapsco for Grand Prix?

Commuters coming into downtown Baltimore this morning were greeted by the sight of protective fencing extending above the previously installed barrier walls for the Labor Day weekend Grand Prix race.

Have you ever seen anything as ugly? The concrete barriers weren't so bad, but the fencing gives downtown all the ambiance of the Gulag Archipelago.

If we're going to have to host this event for four more years, couldn't the organizers at least put off erecting this prison-like fencing until just before the event instead of inflicting it on residents and visitors for nearly a month?


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:53 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: On the roads

August 1, 2011

Web site tries to help ease Grand Prix pain

The Grand Prix race coming to the streets of Baltimore Labor Day weekend promises to be a traffic headache without equal in this city, but at least it's spawned a better-than-decent web site aimed at easing the pain.

Launched several weeks ago in a bare-bones form, the Grand Prix traffic web site is now up and running with what could be useful information for motorists and transit riders trying to find their way around town during the race and the days leading up to it.

While many would prefer that the disruption be avoided completely by relocating the race to, say, Death Valley, at least the city government is providing useful information on closed streets, alternate routes and bus diversions.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:22 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: On the roads
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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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