On the Jones Falls Expressway, bad drivers and flying bottles

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

July 03, 1995

Your Intrepid One tries to avoid the Jones Falls Expressway at all cost during rush hours. Not because of traffic backups, but in fear of daredevil motorists who risk their lives (as well as those of others) to get to or from work.

Some incidents we've seen this year, despite trying to stay away:

* A woman applying makeup as she drove at least 60 mph in the southbound left lane. The JFX speed limit is 50.

* A man veering from the left lane to the exit ramp at Northern Parkway without using his turn signal, as well as not being concerned about cars in the other two lanes.

* Several passengers in a car tossing bottles at various points on northbound lanes between the Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane exits. Meanwhile, traffic behind the car was swerving to avoid the flying objects and broken glass.

Now we hear that Mark Levi of Pikesville often sees motorists drive on the interstate's shoulder.

"There will be a serious accident eventually if these people are not ticketed for misuse of the shoulder area," Mr. Levi said. "They are crossing over high-speed exits and entrances of the Jones Falls Expressway."

Mr. Levi, who works downtown, said the culprits are especially bad at the southbound Cold Spring Lane exit, where they cruise on the exit lane, then the shoulder and into the high-speed merge lane for traffic entering the JFX.

Maj. Alvin A. Winkler of the city Police Department's traffic division said he was unaware of the problem, but that he intended to make officers who patrol the JFX aware of it.

"It certainly is illegal," Major Winkler said. "It's been our aim to slow traffic on the JFX."

A patrol car with radar is routinely assigned to patrol the JFX, Major Winkler said. However, the officer is often pulled from JFX duty to other assignments.

We remember a speed trap on the southbound JFX just past The Baltimore Sun building. The police cruiser had its trunk raised so oncoming traffic couldn't see the officer with the radar gun.

CURVES, CRASHES

Troublesome curves seem to exist in every community. Hairpin curves. Curves that are slippery when wet. Curves that have blind spots.

In Owings Mills, a winding stretch that bothers many residents is on Gwynnbrook Avenue between Owings Mills Boulevard and Academy Avenue.

Michael H. Tow of Owings Mills said too many motorists -- especially westbound -- take the stretch too fast and with little regard for the center line.

"Couldn't a barrier be put in to prevent that? Or at least some rumble strips to remind people to slow down before they take that curve?" Mr. Tow asked.

The Intrepid One travels the stretch sometimes en route to Maryland Public Television and found it easy to exceed the 30 mph speed limit while going downhill in the curvy westbound lane. But the area is clearly marked to warn motorists of the curves.

Baltimore County police spokesman Cpl. Kevin B. Novak said no accidents have occurred at the stretch this year. However, nine occurred last year on Gwynnbrook near Owings Mills Boulevard.

OLD TOKENS

Mary Edwards, a senior citizen who lives downtown and frequently rides Mass Transit Administration buses, has a rare problem: an excess of senior bus tokens.

About two years ago, friends and relatives gave her the bus tokens as birthday and Christmas presents.

She became ill and didn't ride the bus for nearly a year. When she tried to ride the bus recently, the driver told her the tokens were no longer any good.

"He said they were too old and wouldn't take them," Ms. Edwards said. "So now I have a drawer of useless bus tokens, and I have to go back to buying bus passes."

Anthony Brown, a spokesman for the MTA, said the agency stopped issuing senior tokens about 18 months ago. Although the tokens are no longer for sale, the ones in circulation still are accepted, and the rejection of Ms. Edwards' tokens was an "isolated incident."

BELTWAY MERGE

Joseph Dulany of Pasadena commutes daily from his Anne Arundel County home to Woodlawn via the Arundel Expressway (Route 10) and the Baltimore Beltway.

His concern, especially during the congested morning rush, is that the two lanes of the Beltway at Exit 2 are not enough to handle all the traffic that merges from Route 10.

"I do not understand how traffic engineers could get away with building an interchange where four high-speed lanes merge into two high-speed lanes," Mr. Dulany said. "If you drive the road daily, you will see how a lot of merging takes place in a very short distance."

The problem, he says, is when the two lanes of Route 10 attempt to merge with the Beltway. Traffic along Route 10 is heavy in the morning, and motorists must wait to enter the Beltway.

Chuck Brown, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said no operational problems have occurred at the interchange, other than a slight backup during the morning rush. However, he said the SHA will do a study of any highway problem upon receiving requests from motorists.

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.

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