Road-repair season is here '93 projects may total $500 million

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

April 26, 1993|By State Highway Administration

Forget tulips, cherry blossoms and daffodils, the sweet smells of tar and asphalt are in the air.

Yes, April marks the return of paving season, that time of year when loads of concrete, heavy equipment and men waving orange flags are unceremoniously dumped onto Maryland's highways and byways.

The State Highway Administration estimates that the agency will spend $500 million on road and bridge construction projects in 1993. That's a significant increase from last year and an "above ++ average" level overall, says Jim Kelly, SHA's deputy chief engineer for construction.

Many commuters are already feeling the effects. More construction means more detours, lane closings, and traffic delays. It's the price we pay for better roads in the future.

"I've never met a happy person sitting in line somewhere," Mr. Kelly says. "The good news is that motorists won't encounter a lot of Beltway work this year, and they have in past summers. We're done with most of the jobs we needed."

The biggest impact in the Baltimore area will be felt in Anne Arundel County with more than $140 million in work involving U.S. 50, Interstate 97 and the extension of Route 100. Most of those projects are slated to continue through next year.

Mr. Kelly says road construction might even increase this summer if President Clinton persuades Congress to pass a new economic stimulus package. The original version of the bill set aside $44.9 million for road construction and repair in Maryland.

Intrepid Commuter reminds fellow motorists to be especially careful around the dozens of road construction work zones. Your well-being and the lives of construction workers are at stake.

As recently as 1991, there were nine deaths in construction zones caused by traffic accidents.

The No. 1 problem around those sites is speeding. Motorists should remember that not only is it safer to slow down, it's cheaper: traffic fines are doubled in road-work zones.

MARC train schedule follows a new track

Rail commuters may find they need to rise a bit earlier or that they get to sleep a bit later in some cases.

Maryland Rail Commuter system is tinkering with its schedule again, and while most of the changes amount to only five to 15 minutes in the timing of any train, a few are significant. For instance, the No. 417 on the Penn Line will leave Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station at 9 a.m. instead of 8:25 a.m.

Construction along Amtrak lines outside Maryland and the opening of a new MARC station along the Camden Line in Greenbelt are the cause. MARC Penn Line trains run on tracks owned and operated by Amtrak.

"It's a kind of a trickle down situation with Amtrak," says James F. Buckley, assistant general manager of the Mass Transit Administration. "When they adjust their schedule along the Northeast, we need to fit in the windows of opportunity."

The new schedule goes into effect May 3.

Some drivers forget how to handle sirens

In our wanderings around greater Baltimore, Intrepid Commuter has noticed that drivers are sometimes oblivious to emergency vehicles.

Recently, we saw a commuter pass an ambulance that had its siren wailing. That's inexcusable.

On previous occasions, we have seen drivers who were slow to yield the right-of-way to police and fire vehicles and many who refused to stop altogether.

For the record, we looked up the law governing such situations. Please commit this to memory:

When an emergency vehicle such as a fire truck, ambulance or police car approaches with its lights flashing and siren on, you must pull over to the right edge of the roadway, clear of any intersection, and stop until the vehicle has passed.

It's also against the law to pass a police car, ambulance or fire truck with its lights and siren operating.

Shortcuts

* Politicians have only themselves to blame for low ridership on Baltimore's mass transit systems. Astute reader Joe McGeady Jr. of Severna Park notes that the decision last year to locate the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration and its 3,300 jobs in Woodlawn instead of downtown Baltimore meant a golden opportunity to match jobs with public transportation was lost. "Isn't it obvious that this huge people center should be located with access to either the light rail or the subway?" he writes.

* Charles Hebler of the Putty Hill area suggests that a lot of motor vehicle violations like burned-out headlights could be corrected with an annual inspection for visible violations only. Charge a $5 fee, put a lot of unemployed people back to work, and make the roads safer, he says.

* A Highlandtown senior citizen complains that trucks and vans parked along the sides of her street block her view when she tries to pull into traffic. "I have to pull away from the curb, and I can't see if somebody is coming down the street, sometimes pretty fast," she writes. "I think persons with trucks or vans should consider if they are blocking the view of small cars and park on the opposite side of the street."

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