Peace of mind at stake in case of the missing street


February 01, 1993

It's not easy living on a street that doesn't exist.

Just ask Nancy M. Cormeny, who moved to Baltimore in 1987 to a home she thought was on the 5100 block of Falls Road Terrace.

Trouble is, Falls Road Terrace isn't on any map. City government doesn't recognize it. The mail gets delivered somehow, but just try getting a plumber or electrician to visit, she says.

It's an interesting problem -- in an existentialist kind of way. Any moment she expects Rod Serling to pop up (in black and white, naturally) from behind the shrubbery to explain how she's trapped in the Twilight Zone.

For the record, Falls Road Terrace runs parallel to the east side of Falls Road, much like a service road, near Cross Keys.

But the situation has its serious side. What if an emergency situation pops up, help is summoned, but can't find the correct address?

"My main concern is that if I need an ambulance or the Fire Department, time will be lost in trying to find the east side of the 5100 block of Falls Road because there are no houses there," Ms. Cormeny writes. "If I call it Falls Road Terrace, that address will not be in the computer."

We forwarded Ms. Cormeny's concerns to the city's public works department, and, after two days of research, they discovered Falls Road Terrace.

Alas, the department's spokeswoman tells us that the street was created in 1909 when that section of the city was part of Baltimore County, but the name was mysteriously dropped when the city annexed the property.

Strictly speaking, the city government has always considered Falls Road Terrace to be part of Falls Road.

Vanessa Pyatt, the spokeswoman for the city agency, says a similar situation exists along Harford Road, where a service drive is considered Harford Road Terrace but the street name doesn't appear on any map.

Residents of either terrace have the right to petition the City Council to have their name recognized, she says.

"If they want to be regarded as Falls Road Terrace, they'll have to go to the City Council," Mrs. Pyatt says. "Only the council can designate a new name for a street."

Kemper Lewis, a bus buff from West Baltimore, wrote us with an excellent suggestion concerning the city's mass transit system.

He says he knows there's not much money to build anything right now, but why not look into creating an electric trolley bus system when the state has some dough?

For the uninitiated, electric trolley buses are just like the Mass Transit Administration diesel buses you see on the streets of Baltimore except they are electrically powered, getting the juice from overhead catenary wires like those along the new light rail system.

The advantages of the bus trolley system are its simplicity and its low cost -- and it's nonpolluting. The buses can run alongside city traffic as long as the wires are in place.

"Perhaps you can contact the MTA about the possibility of a feasibility study being done on this prospect," Mr. Lewis writes. "I know money is real tight at this time, but when it becomes available, this is an idea that should be pursued."

Those who have lived in Baltimore for a few decades may remember what were called "trackless trolleys." Same concept, except they went the way of the streetcar into oblivion in the city.

We dutifully called the MTA and were told that, yes, indeed, they have looked at electric trolley buses in other cities -- Philadelphia and Boston still have them, as do Dayton, Ohio, and San Francisco -- but found some disadvantages.

MTA spokesman Frank Starr noted that electric buses are restricted to areas that have catenary and, unlike the light rail, can carry no more people than what a diesel bus can handle. It's also a linear system: if a bus breaks down or is blocked by a fire truck, it backs up all the buses along the line.

The catenary wire that would have to be strung around town isn't really the most attractive stuff you'll ever see. Whether electric buses are really pollution-free is also debatable since it merely transfers the energy demand to a power plant (although the Intrepid One cautions the MTA that they just debunked their own environmental argument for the Central Light Rail Line).

Mr. Starr says that the MTA is experimenting with buses $H powered by natural gas as an alternative, nonpolluting fuel source.

Baltimore jams make the top 10

The Intrepid One closes this week with a hearty congratulations to the people of Baltimore for making one of those ubiquitous top 10 lists.

Yes, for the first time Charm City has made Metro Traffic Control's list of the cities with the worst traffic congestion in the country. The private traffic reporting service ranks Baltimore tied for ninth with Dallas behind New York, Chicago, Houston, Washington, San Francisco/San Jose, Los Angeles, Seattle and Indianapolis.

The "Bottleneck Award" is based on a survey of 48 cities judged in eight categories, including ratings of the drives to the local airport, shopping malls and sports arenas.

Baltimore's total point count was 40 out of a possible 100. By comparison, New York received an 86.25 and Washington, 73.75.

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