Obscured view, confusing lane markers disappear with phone call


September 05, 1994

Despite all the rumors, Intrepid Commuter issues this blanket denial:

We had nothing to do with the recent cease-fire by the Irish Republican Army. Ditto for the efforts to bring harmony to the Middle East.

The nice weather? Not hardly. Our role in the revival of Chesapeake Bay rockfish also has been greatly exaggerated.

We suspect our elevation to demi-deity has been prompted by a simple, but undeniable fact: We get results.

Witness two recent inquiries regarding two disparate issues: overgrown flowers on Park Heights Avenue and temporary lane markers from the Beltway to Interstate 95 south of Baltimore.

First, the flowers. They were brought to our attention by Mayer Katz, a city resident who frequently travels the Beltway's Park Heights Avenue interchange.

When traveling northbound Park Heights, his view was blocked by flowers planted in the median when he attempting to turn left onto the outer loop.

"Even coming to the full stop does not allow the driver to see the southbound Park Heights Avenue coming up the steep hill," Mr. Katz wrote. "Cars have to inch their way to allow drivers to see what is coming."

Shortly after receiving Mr. Katz's letter, we got a call about the lane markers. The new stripes, installed as part of this summer's resurfacing of the I-95/I-695 interchange, were misleading commuters.

Before, the markers allowed the two right lanes of the three-lane

Beltway to exit at I-95. The middle lane was an optional turn lane -- you could stay on the Beltway or exit.

Temporary markers installed in August allowed traffic to exit only from the far-right lane.

"My concern is that they're going to do the permanent paving and striping soon and they'll continue this bad policy," the caller said. "I'd like to know that there's some way that we can get that changed."

The flowers? Hey, they're history. Forget about them. The markers? Gone. Snuffed. They don't exist.

Yes, it just took one call to our friends at the State Highway Administration to banish both nuisances. The flowers have been trimmed and will be replanted soon to maintain a better view of traffic. On Thursday, the lane markers were removed, and new ones reflecting the old traffic movement put in their place.

Darrell Wiles, the SHA's traffic czar for Baltimore County, said the lines were a simple mistake. "The impact on traffic wasn't so severe because it was August, but if it hadn't been changed you would have seen some problems," he said.

SHA officials admitted they failed to consider sight lines when the flowers were planted last year as a cooperative project undertaken with a local condominium complex and a synagogue. The state will pay for the new plants, mostly junipers and low evergreens.

"It isn't that the plants grew extremely high; it's that the hill on Park Heights Avenue made it an atypical situation," said Chuck Brown, an SHA spokesman.

Our Intrepidness would add that both men clearly were intimidated by the power and influence of yours truly. So keep those cards and letters coming. We kind of like to hear the slight quiver in their voices.

MARC riders to pay for parking in 1996

Think '96.

If you commute by rail, that's when some vital relief is headed your way. It's the year two major projects will bring some badly needed parking spaces to the Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) system.

On Wednesday, state officials break ground on a new Dorsey Station on the Camden Line and a five-story parking garage at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport station on the Penn Line.

The Dorsey Station will be between the Elkridge and Jessup stations. It will have its own exit from the future Route 100.

When completed in the spring of 1996, the BWI and Dorsey projects will add about 2,000 parking spaces to MARC. Each of those two stations will have more parking than any MARC station this side of the 3,000-space Greenbelt station near Washington.

That's the good news. The bad news is there's a price to pay.

For the first time, the Maryland Department of Transportation will charge MARC customers for parking. No rates have been set, but it could be anywhere from $2 to $5 to park at Dorsey or BWI.

No MARC stop ever has required customers to pay for parking. Most already fork over more than $100 a month for a monthly pass to ride the trains in the first place.

But officials now expect that if more parking facilities are built (such as the expanded lot planned for Odenton), MARC customers will have to pay for them.

"It's something that [Comptroller Louis L.] Goldstein has insisted on for years," said William R. McCaffrey, the department's spokesman. "The move is designed to take some of the burden of the cost of building these things."

The BWI garage, which will expand from a 500-space parking lot to 1,600 spaces, is costing the state $7.2 million. With its 885-parking-space surface lot, the Dorsey Station's price tag is $4.8 million.

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