Latest JFX improvement shouldn't generate as much ? !!

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

September 07, 1992

Remember those radio ads in the 1980s that warned motorists about construction along the Jones Falls Expressway?

RTC After the announcer gave his friendly warning, they always featured some guy cursing the backups. "The JFX?

!!" he would always mutter.

Well, four years after the $160 million face lift was completed, it may be time to put the ?

!! part back alongside the JFX.

Baltimore's most popular commuter artery is getting some more treatment. It won't be as bad as the last time. Call it a nose job, a chin tuck -- or maybe "bridge work" would be more appropriate.

Without nearly as much fanfare as accompanied the initial three-year $160 million rehabilitation project, the city has embarked on a $70 million program to complete the improvements to the JFX.

Last time, the work focused on widening and resurfacing. Lanes had to be closed for months and commuters rerouted to secondary streets.

During the second phase, the concentration is on bridges. And while there are certain to be some inconveniences, they will be more likely to affect commuters who travel across the JFX, rather than on it.

The final 2.36 miles of the expressway from Howard Street south to Fayette Street includes no fewer than 10 overpasses.

All of them have to be redecked. Most date from the opening of the expressway more than 30 years ago, and their deficiencies are evident to the average motorist. Steel reinforcing rods are exposed and rusted. The concrete has been patched and repatched.

"Let's put it this way, they are structurally deficient," said M. Faysal Thameen, the head of the city's bureau of highways.

Some of the overpasses -- Howard Street, Guilford Avenue, Fallsway and Chase Street -- have already been finished. Maryland Avenue and Preston Street are under construction. The rest are in the design stage.

The city has been careful not to close any two northbound bridges or any two southbound bridges at the same time. So far, the effect on traffic has been minimal.

But the worst is yet to come. Take Charles Street. Please. The bridge over the Amtrak railroad tracks will have to be closed in 1995, and traffic on Maryland Avenue will be made two-way. That should be fun.

Widening and resurfacing of the remainder of the expressway won't come until 1997. The project should be finished by 1998.

That will be good news for the 95,000 or so motorists who travel the JFX every day. The new bridges should last 50 years or so, according to Mr. Thameen.

Keep your fingers crossed.

'Ode to a Backup'

Intrepid Commuter is not in the habit of publishing poetry.

Maybe you haven't noticed, but driving to and from work is difficult enough without suffering literature about it as well.

Still, we couldn't resist a poem sent to us by the folks at the Baltimore Zoo. It was composed by marketing assistant Karen Sparr during the 2 1/2 hours she had to spend in her car one recent morning.

Ms. Sparr calls her composition "Ode to a Backup."

"When I woke up this morning, a bright light shone in.

'Sunshine!' I said. 'How nice to see you again.'

'It's going to be a great day!' I felt fresh and alive.

Until I encountered a backup on my morning drive.

It was miles long and the wait seemed longer.

'Hmmm. What's my next move?' I began to ponder.

The options were few and anxiety was high.

I could turn around in the median or wait, grumble and sigh.

I chose the latter, which was a definite mistake.

But my car could never cross a median that looked like a lake.

When I finally arrived at the scene of the mishap,

Every grouchy motorist was being told to turn back.

So, my little white machine had to cross the great lake.

We made it though with ease, it was a piece of cake.

L I got to know my car better during this rush-hour confusion.

Suddenly, all its quirks seemed just like an illusion.

So, now you know just where I've been.

This has been my morning since 6 a.m."

They're ba-ack!

Schools are back in session this week and Intrepid Commuter says pay attention to pedestrian safety. The law requires cars to come to a full stop at least 20 feet in front of or to the rear of a school bus when it's picking up or dropping off students.

Commuters should also obey crossing guards and school safety patrols, be particularly careful when turning right on red and slow down around school zones.

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