Useless signals's A sign of inattention


July 05, 1993

Being the sentimental sort, Intrepid Commuter keeps an assortment of memorabilia.

There's the framed photograph of the beloved Intrepid-mobile, the 1976 bus transfer encased in acrylic, the toy light rail car (empty of passengers as in real life), and that lovely windshield-breaking chunk of concrete from the Beltway.

Sure, these mementos are pretty useless, but we aren't inclined to discard them no matter how much clutter they cause.

zTC Perhaps similar feelings are to blame for the city's decision to preserve a useless traffic signal on Pratt and Concord streets between Piers 5 and 6 at the Inner Harbor.

The light was brought to our attention by an alert Risselle Fleisher. The signal once stopped traffic on Pratt for the benefit of people driving out of Harrison's Pier V.

But that road hasn't existed for months -- courtesy of the folks building the future Columbus Center. There's a huge foundation where the street used to be.

Ms. Fleisher, who commutes between Glen Burnie and Baltimore daily, found all this puzzling. It's slightly irritating to get stuck at a red light, waiting and waiting for no apparent reason.

What's everybody stopped for? A new road to show up? A future light rail crossing? An Independence Day parade?

"It's a silly light," Ms. Fleisher says. "I don't know if anyone in the city ever goes around and looks at these kinds of things."

It seems they don't. We brought the light to the attention of the city's public works department last week.

On Wednesday, it was switched to flashing yellow. Soon, it will be removed entirely.

"It's not serving any purpose," says Marcia M. Collins, a spokeswoman for the department. "It served a secondary purpose of allowing pedestrians to cross, but we'll post signs to direct them to other areas."

That result has pleased Ms. Fleisher, but left Intrepid Commuter wondering: Did the mayor or city council members drive Pratt Street these last six months? We know it's a good five blocks from City Hall, but they might try getting out once in a while.

Your highway dollars at rework on interstate

Faithful readers know the Intrepid Commuter avoids bashing government for no good reason.

But, as Michael Corleone laments in "Godfather III," "They keep pulling me back in."

Witness the latest notice from the State Highway Administration that resurfacing work is about to begin on Interstate 195 in Baltimore County.

Pardon our concern, but THAT HIGHWAY IS ONLY 3 YEARS OLD!

There is leftover lasagna in our freezer older than that.

If the Romans built roads that lasted only three years, their empire wouldn't have extended beyond Naples. Three years is how long a good pair of shoes lasts, not an interstate highway.

Nevertheless, Baltimore Asphalt Paving Co. has been hired for $135,000 in tax dollars to repair about a quarter mile of the highway around the ramps to and from U.S. 1. By the time you read this, barrels and arrow boards may already be in place.

Liz Kalinowski, an SHA spokeswoman, admits that the road has lasted about half the six to eight years it was supposed to last. She blamed the severe storms last winter and a high volume of truck traffic from U.S. 1.

But the agency probably also made a mistake when it chose to have the highway paved with a "popcorn" mix. It's a porous material with a granular texture that has caused problems before.

This time, I-195 will be getting a longer-lasting form of bituminous concrete, Ms. Kalinowski said.

We will keep our fingers crossed. Nothing personal. Just business.


* Why not get a landscape contractor to plant some flowers in the wide median at Jones Falls Expressway and Fayette Street? In return, the city could allow the company to post some free advertising. We recently presented this idea from a reader to city officials who say they are willing to discuss such a deal if any company is interested. Talk to Ms. Collins at the Public Works Department, 396-5198.

* It should come as no surprise, but a recent opinion poll commissioned by the Association of American Railroads shows that, by lopsided margins, most Americans oppose longer or heavier trucks on the highway. Hmm. Intrepid notes that the poll did not ask how Americans feel about train crossings that hold up traffic.

* An innovative notion from reader Frank Lesmith of Woodlawn: Why not have the names of companies responsible for designing or building roads posted along their projects so that commuters know "who to blame for the ineptitude exhibited in the design or the malfeasance betrayed by shoddy construction"?


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.

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