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September 27, 2011

Bartlett un-retires, will head transportation authority

Harold M. Bartlett, a veteran transportation executive who retired as acting head of the Maryland Transportation Authority early this year, will return as permanent executive secretary of the toll facilities agency, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Tuesday.

Bartlett, a Montgomery County resident, served as deputy secretary of the Maryland Department  of Transportation in 2009-2010 following a 23-year career with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. He retired as deputy late last year but continued in the role of acting executive secretary until the first phase of the Inter-county Connector was opened in February.

In the interim, the authority has been headed by acting executive secretary Randolph P. Brown. The agency, which manages the ICC and the state's seven other toll facilities, voted last week to impose the largest package of toll increases in its history.




Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities

September 22, 2011

Baltimore County to relocate 3 speed cameras

The Baltimore County police will move three of their speed cameras from sites where driving behavior has improved to locations where additional enforcement may be needed, Chief James Johnson announced Thursday.

County-run speed cameras, which issue $40 tickets to drivers going 12 mph or more over the speed limit in selected school zones, will be installed at Middle River Middle School, Eastern Technical High School and Catonsville High School.

Police said an improvement in driver conduct since speed cameras were installed will allow them to deactivate cameras at Sparrows Point High School, Hawthorne Elementary School and Lansdowne High School. Some equipment may remain in place even after the cameras are moved, the department said.

Cameras will remain in place at 12 existing locations. All of the cameras will be used for enforcement from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., police said. Motorists will get a 30-day grace period at each of the new locations during which warnings rather than citations will be issued.

According to Johnson, the new sites were chosen after an analysis of speed studies and crash statistics. Police said the portable cameras will be installed so that traffic can be monitored in both directions.

For Middle River, the school zone is located in the 800 block of Middle River Road; for Eastern, the 1100 block of Mace Avenue, and for Catonsville, the 500 block of South Rolling Road. Residents along South Rolling Road have been particularly vocal in seeking a police crackdown on speeders in their neighborhood.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

September 21, 2011

Cyclovia in Roland Parks canceled

The Roland Park Cyclovia IV, which had been planned for this Sunday, has been called off, according to the Baltimore Department of Transportation.

The event, a street festival in which at least part of a broad city avenue is closed to vehicle traffic so that walkers and bicyclists can have unfettered use of the roadway, was to have taken place between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Roland Avenue and University Parkway. Kathy Chopper, a department spokeswoman, said she did not know the reason for the cancellation.

Carol Silldorff, executive director of Bike Maryland and an organizer of the event, said it was called off because of delays in receiving an answer from the city's permit office regarding the cost. She said that after the decision was made to scrap it, organizers found the city intended to charge $5.000 -- more than they were prepared to pay. She said she hopes the Cyclovia can be rescheduled for October.

Cyclovia is based on a concept developed in Bogota that has been adopted by several U.S. cities.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:55 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bicycles

September 20, 2011

BWI reports best month ever

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport posted its best month ever in terms of passenger counts in July as 2.2 million fliers landed at or took off from the airport, the Maryland Aviation Administration said Tuesday.

The total represented a 1.6 increase over July 2010, the top previous month for BWI passengers. The airport has been enjoying steady growth in recent years, posting monthly passenger records in 14 of the past 15 months.

Airport traffic has grown for each of the past 17 months and 25 of the past 26 months. For the most recent 12-month period BWI traffic is up 5.2 percent to 22.5 million, airport officials said.

Check out some pictures of BWI through the years.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

September 19, 2011

New Carrollton choice is small plus for Baltimore

Baltimore didn't have a huge stake in the O'Malley administration's decision on which transit center would become the new home of the Department of Housing and Community Development, but it did have some interest in the outcome. And from a strictly Baltimore-centric point of view, Gov. Martin O'Malley made the right choice.

Of the candidates in Prince George's, New Carrollton is the site with the best links with Baltimore. The transit center the includes a station on the MARC Penn Line, which would make it quite feasible for a department employee to commute from Baltimore, Halethorpe, the BWI area or Odenton via train.

Some of the other possible choices, including the Branch Avenue and Naylor Road Metro stations, would have presented difficult commutes for Baltimore-area workers. Laurel would have been OK, but it's on the slower Camden Line, which offers fewer trains than the Penn.

The department will move to New Carrollton from Crownsville, which will be an inconvenience for department employees who live in Annapolis or on the Eastern Shore. But department employees who live in Baltimore, who now have little choice but to drive, will now have the MARC option. So there will be winners as well as losers.

There's little doubt the No. 1 factor driving the decision is politics. Prince George's has been wanting a slice of the state employment pie for some time. But the transit advantages of the choice are not to be dismissed. And if Prince George's is going to have a growth center, it's best that it be accessible for people throughout Central Maryland. New Carrollton accomplishes that.






Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: MARC train

2012 called crucial year for transportation funding

If Maryland is going to raise significant new revenue to meet its backlog of transportation needs – most likely through a higher gas tax-- 2012 is the year it must be done, a leading lawmaker told a gathering of Baltimore business leaders Monday.


Speaking at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s annual transportation summit, State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola warned that any political will that exists to raise money for highways, transit and other transportation needs will fall off the closer legislators get to the 2012 election.

"They’re going to be even more skittish as we get to 2013 and 2014," the Montgomery County Democrat said.

Garagiola was one of several speakers who called for increased investment in transportation at both the state and federal level, warning that the United States and Maryland are falling behind in quality of infrastructure.

U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, the top Democrat on the House budget committee, warned that transportation advocates face a challenge in even maintaining the current level of federal contributions because of Republican resistance to spending for any purpose.

Van Hollen, who is one of 12 lawmakers appointed to the so-called "super-Congress" charged with making $1.5 trillion in federal budget cuts over the next decade, said the most important priority in the short term is not deficit reduction but "to get the economy going again and get people back to work."

With unemployment in the construction sector running at about 14 percent, he said, transportation infrastructure is a good place to start.

For two years Congress has been stalled in its attempts to pass a new six-year transportation reauthorization bill. Meanwhile, federal transportation programs – primarily in the form of aid to the states – has continued under a series of short-term extensions. The most recent allowed funding to continue for the next six months, but the House and Senate are moving in different directions on a longer-term bill.

In the House, the Republican majority has been crafting a proposal that would cut federal transportation by more than 30 percent from current levels by holding spending to the amount of revenue raised by the federal gas tax.

"That is a huge cut at a time when we have big infrastructure needs and huge unemployment in this sector, Van Hollen said. But he predicted that even some Republican members would balk at cuts of that magnitude.

"Something’s got to give in this process, and I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail," he said.

One of the key issues at the federal level, as well as in Annapolis, is the reluctance of lawmakers to vote for increases in the gas tax. The federal tax has remained at 18.4 cents a gallon, and Maryland’s at 23.5 cents a gallon, since the early 1990s. What was once a fairly routine vote every few years to raise the tax to keep up with inflation has become increasingly difficult as the Democratic and Republican parties have become increasingly polarized over fiscal issues.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:07 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: For policy wonks only

September 15, 2011

Sobriety checkpoint on Key Bridge planned

The Maryland Transportation Authority Police will conduct a sobriety checkpoint Friday night at the Francis Scott Key Bridge toll plaza.

If past performance is any indication, they won't be rounding up a vast number of drunken drivers -- but there will be some arrests. There's always a few drivers who are out of it just enough to ignore all warnings and drive right into the checkpoint after a night of boozing it up.

Many more drivers will leave the checkpoints with information on the dangers of driving under the influence.

The checkpoint hours were not announced.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities, On the roads

Storms didn't set back ICC progress

The last few weeks of rainy weather may have washed out roads and knocked out power to thousands of homes, but they didn't put a serious crimp in the progress of construction of the Intercounty Connector, Maryland's transportation chief says.

Shortly before Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee hit, contractors finished putting down at least one layer of pavement on the entire unopened stretch of the ICC between Georgia Avenue and Interstate 95, Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley said Thursday. The section between Georgia and Interstate 370 opened early this year.

The work that remains includes striping, putting up signage, installing guardrails and completing the top layers of pavement. Asked whether the entire stretch of the ICC linking the Interstate 95 and Interstate 270 corridors would open this year, Swaim-Staley crossed her fingers and said "weather permitting."


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland toll facilities, On the roads

September 14, 2011

5 sections of state roads remain closed by storms

The State Highway Administration said late Wednesday that five sections of its road system -- most in Southern Maryland --  remain closed because of damage caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

The only road section remaining closed in the Baltimore area is a ramp from Ritchie Highway to Route 100 in Anne Arundel County. It is expected to reopen midway through the fall after repairs costing an estimated $500,000.

The most serious damage occurred  to the bridge on Route 234 over Allens Fresh Run near La Plata in Charles County. The agency expects to open a temporary bridge by mid-November and begin design work on a permanent replacement for the damaged structure, estimated to cost $3 million.



Other closed roadways include:

--U.S. 301 north of Route 6 near La Plata, expected to open Friday after $250,000-$300,000 in repairs. The SHA said the left southbound  lane remains blocked but the right is open.

--U.S. 301 south of Route 6, expected to remain closed until early next month after $600,000-$700,000 in damage. The SHA has opened one temporary southbound lane.,

--Route 38 over the Timothy Branch in Prince George's County, where a drainage pipe was damaged. A repair costing $125,000-$150,000 is expected to be completed Friday.

SHA Acting Administrator Darrell B. Mobley said the state received as much rain in Irene and Lee as it did when Tropical Storm roared through the state in 1972, destroying multiple bridges and roads.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

Overnight BWI noise to last about a month

Residents of Linthicum, Ferndale and other communities near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport must endure about another month of unusually loud nights as work continues on a runway repaving project, a BWI spokesman said.

The airport will periodically close its two busiest runways between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. until the project is completed in mid-October, BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said. On those nights it will shift traffic to the normally little-used runway 422, which will mean increased noise for communities toward the northeast of the airport, Dean said.

The two main runways were shut down for 54 continuous hours last weekend as contractors performed the most intensive phase to the repaving of their intersection. Dean said the planned work was completed successfully but that parts of the project will still require overnight closings.

Dean said traffic falls off considerably during the overnight hours but that there are still scheduled arrivals and departures -- both passenger flights and freight deliveries. He said residents of the affected neighborhoods had been informed through community organizations and the airport neighbors' committee.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:07 PM | | Comments (0)

September 1, 2011

Report: Worst drivers in America are in Baltimore

Allstate Insurance today released its annual "America's Best Drivers" report ranking the largest U.S. cities based on car collisions and there's good news and bad news for those behind the wheel in Baltimore.

The good: Our ranking didn't change from 2010. We're still ranked 192.

The bad: We're still ranked 192 - the lowest ranking is 193.

America's safety driving city, for the second year in a row, according to Allstate, is Fort Collins, Colo., with drivers averaging about 14 years between collisions. In Fort Collins, drivers are 28.6 percent less likely to have an accident, compared to the national average.

In Baltimore, drivers average about 5 years between wrecks and are 88.7 percent more likely to have an accident, compared to the national average.

So, where are the drivers that are even worse than those in Baltimore? Better stay off the sidewalks in Washington.

Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 1:26 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Road safety
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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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