New two-part truck zone aids residents, haulers


November 14, 1994


Can you hear that? It's the sound of a little peace and quiet on Fayette Street.

Since August, there's been less rumble from tractor-trailers on the east side of town thanks to an ingenious compromise struck by community leaders, trucking interests and city government.

If you've ever lived in a neighborhood frequented by trucks, you know how bothersome the noise and vibration can be. Plaster walls crack. Windows hum. Parents worry about children playing outdoors.

"The houses weren't designed for this kind of abuse," says Ed Rutkowski of the Patterson Park Neighborhood Initiative.

Two years ago, a city task force created a "local truck zone," in the southeast waterfront communities. Only trucks based in, or making deliveries to, the area bounded by the harbor, President Street, Eastern Avenue and Conkling Street were allowed.

That cut down truck traffic on busy Boston Street by an estimated 75 percent. But where did all the trucks go?

Apparently, many went to Fayette Street. It's practically a parallel east-west route, one that truckers warned would get busier when the local truck zone was created.

"We received a lot of complaints," admits George G. Balog, the city's public works director. "People have strong feelings when they see a lot of trucks coming down their street."

Early this year, the task force hit upon an idea. It would create a second local truck zone, north of the original one, to get unnecessary trucks out of the Fayette corridor.

But the trucking industry balked. Local trucks needed access to the port facilities in South Baltimore, and they had to have a direct route to get downtown and hook up with Key Highway.

Enter Frank J. Murphy, a city traffic engineer, with a novel idea. He recommended a split truck zone with one chunk covering Fayette Street and another on the opposite side of the Northwest Harbor.

This is how it works. Truck traffic is restricted inside the area bounded by President and Gay streets to the west, Ashland Avenue and Monument Street to the north, Haven Street to the east and Eastern Avenue to the south. Trucks that are based in the zone or are making deliveries (or pickups) within its parameters are legal.

The innovation is that trucks headed south to the opposite side of the Northwest Harbor are also permitted. Naturally, the reverse traffic pattern is OK, too.

The new two-part zone was put in effect on Aug. 15. Since then, police have ticketed at least 17 trucks for violations.

City officials estimate that truck traffic on Fayette has dropped about 40 percent. Truckers seem to have accepted the change.

"I have not heard any complaints," says Walter C. Thompson, executive vice president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association. "It seems to have satisfied the needs of the community serving the port."

Community leaders have also observed a difference. Extraneous traffic has been pushed to North Avenue or back to Interstate 95.

"We think we've got the problem licked," Mr. Balog says.

Still, the task force's work is not done. Members are now looking to South Baltimore to see if they can satisfy concerns of residents with similar complaints about noise and vibration from big rigs.

"Considering how the city has been wrestling with this issue for 20 years, I'm amazed we've finally been able to do something about it," Mr. Murphy says.

State broadens bus business

Leo W. Burroughs Jr.'s lucky number must be 77.

How else can you explain the fact that the Mass Transit Administration is expanding service on the No. 77 bus through Randallstown?

Then again, it may be that Mr. Burroughs has discovered that the MTA responds to petition drives, aggressive lobbying and a lot of persistence. He has been willing to supply all of the above.

Faithful readers will recall that we wrote about Mr. Burroughs one year ago. We helped him convince the MTA to add buses on the 77 route and honor flag stops -- designated areas where people get a bus to stop by raising their hands.

Well, it didn't end there. Last week, MTA officials informed him that they want to try offering limited Saturday service on the 77 for the first time.

"They've seen the light," Mr. Burroughs says.

The inspiration comes as the MTA contemplates a slew of service changes. The agency tinkers with bus schedules three times a year. The next set of changes are slated for January.

The good news is that for the first time in several years, the alterations are focused on expanding service rather than on cutting back.

The changes include:

* Partial Saturday service on the No. 77 running from Old Court Metro and Security Square Mall.

* New express service from Kent Island to Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington. The buses would run from a 265-space park-and-ride lot under construction on Thompson Creek Road in Stevensville.

* New express runs from the Rosedale park-and-ride lot. The proposed No. 170 would offer four westbound morning and eastbound evening trips between Pulaski Highway and 68th Street and downtown.

* Sunday service on the No. 33 running from Rogers Avenue Metro station and Moravia.

* Elimination of four daily trips on the No. 26 running between the Providence Road park-and-ride and the Lutherville light rail stop.

A number of minor changes are proposed as well. All will be discussed during a series of four public meetings Dec. 13-15 in Annapolis, Baltimore, Towson and Glen Burnie. For more information, call the MTA at 539-5000.

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