Has Baltimore become a haven for carping, cynical people who enjoy mocking our institutions, snarling at and taunting society?
Heavens, we hope not. That's OUR job.
Nevertheless, we are fearful that one of our readers has begun to take after Our Intrepidness. His recent letter drips with sarcasm.
"Intrepid," he writes (Ooh, we hate it when people address us so informally), "I would like you to thank the mayor and the city government for hiring that outstanding contractor who repaved Lombard Street."
"For instance, I like the way they have all the drain covers %J sticking up off the street two to three inches, the roller coaster hills at the intersections are very creative. Just think the challenge motorists have going home or to the Orioles games.
"It's great. They can look forward to flat tires, broken axles and accidents running that obstacle course."
Can you feel the sneer? Great, isn't it?
Unfortunately, it was slightly misplaced. That's the opinion of the city's public works department.
They admit, Lombard Street has been in wretched shape. Resurfacing begun last October between President Street and Hopkins Place left many manhole covers (personhole covers?) exposed and the pavement was uneven.
But that's because the contractor, P. Flanigan & Sons, hadn't been able to finish the $500,000 job; it's near being finished now, though, with a spurt of work being done in just the past week or so.
"As part of the final paving process, we make adjustments to the utility structures to make sure they are level with the roadway," says Vanessa Pyatt, a public works spokeswoman.
One of the reasons the project has taken so long is that the contractor has been instructed not to interfere with rush hour and Orioles traffic or to work in the evenings when local hotel patrons might be disturbed.
The Lombard Street resurfacing is expected to be finished by the end of this month, which should give us all of June to criticize.
Necessary losses, a Jones Falls story
While we're on the topic of major city roads projects, how
about that Jones Falls Expressway?
Intrepid Commuter frequently uses that line, incidentally, to break the ice at parties. Try it. Works every time.
Anyway, there continue to be occasional lane closures on the busy highway. The next one comes up Friday, May 28 when southbound traffic at the Maryland Avenue overpass will be reduced to one lane until noon the next day.
It's part of a $70 million project to renovate and redeck the bridges across the Jones Falls from Howard Street to Fayette Street. Workers need access to the underside of the bridges and, for safety reasons, must shut lanes of the JFX.
Marsha Collins, a city spokeswoman, said decisions about when and how the lanes will be adjusted is a "week to week thing." Planners try to schedule major work at off-peak hours.
"We're trying to keep it out of the mainstream of traffic as much as we can," Ms. Collins said.
The good news is that most of the overpasses, including Fallsway, Chase, Preston and Howard streets, and Guilford Avenue are done.
Maryland Avenue is expected to be wrapped up this December. Biddle Street is next and should be finished by December of next year.
* Baltimore Sun Ombudsman Ernest Imhoff contacted us recently to point out that last week's column incorrectly referred to Park Avenue as Park Street. We stand corrected, penitent, remorseful, contrite and seek forgiveness from our readers.
* In a similar vein, we received a rather haughty note from Sarah Hawkins, who believes the Intrepid One screwed up in a recent column about major highway projects. Well, Ms. High-and-Mighty, we didn't say Milford Mill Road intersected the Beltway, only that Milford Mill Road is the point at which construction on the Beltway starts. It's the closest landmark.
* Helen Naviasky of Baltimore asks: Why doesn't the M-10 bus stop at the Mount Washington light rail station instead of two blocks away? The Mass Transit Administration replies: Because it won't fit. "We can't get buses turned around in the Mount Washington area because there's no room," says Dianna Rosborough, the MTA spokeswoman. "It's an historic area. We try to keep a minimum disruption."
* Mary Hirtz, a senior citizen from Guilford, asks why Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) trains don't always provide a step to help seniors reach the rail station platform. "The MARC is a wonderful train, clean and affordable, but that high step is making it harder and harder to travel," she writes.
Mrs. Rosborough agrees that the steps are needed, particularly at the low-platform stations along the Camden Line. She will forward the complaint to the agency's customer relations department. Anyone having trouble with MARC service should call the MTA's comment line at 333-2354 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Write to the Intrepid Commuter, c/o The Baltimore Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278. Please include your name and telephone number so we can reach you if we have any questions.
Or use your Touch-Tone phone to call Sundial, The Baltimore Sun's telephone information service, at 783-1800, and enter Ext. 4305. Call 268-7736 in Anne Arundel County.