St. Paul Street bridge gives motorist a shaky feeling

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

September 04, 1995

In 25 years of driving, Kay Istanil never has been in an accident, never has received a traffic ticket and never has had the pleasure of eyeing a police cruiser with its emergency lights on in her rearview mirror.

In fact, she says, the only time she has felt uneasy while driving was last week while on the bridge on St. Paul Street behind Penn Station.

The bridge, we should add, is under construction.

"I was sitting there in a long line of cars waiting for the light [at Mount Royal Avenue] to change and the bridge starts swaying," said Ms. Istanil, a Govans resident who works downtown.

"They were knocking part of the street and the side out of the bridge for construction with a big drill, and the bridge starts swaying and rocking."

The bridge, in the 1500 block of St. Paul St., is undergoing repaving and a bolstering of its walls. (You may have noticed the Jones Falls Expressway was closed last weekend for major work on the span.)

The bridge has two lanes closed while they are torn up -- literally -- with drills, which causes the bridge to rock gently. Work is expected to be completed next year.

Your Intrepid One stopped using St. Paul Street en route to downtown about a month ago, preferring instead to travel on Greenmount Avenue, which may be longer but is easier on the stomach.

Having only two lanes open has caused major morning rush hour backups, with cars often strung back to North Avenue.

"I can deal with a backup, but having the bridge shake while I'm driving is something I find hard to take," Ms. Istanil said.

PART-TIME LIGHT: With all due respect to the State Highway Administration, the traffic signals installed in spring 1994 at Westminster Pike (Route 140) and Gores Mill Road are a good start. But couldn't they be fully operational around the clock?

That's the problem that Phyllis G. Grimm and many residents in Reisterstown face.

The signals operate fully only from 6 a.m. until midnight. From midnight until 6 a.m. they flash yellow (caution) to Route 140 traffic and red (make a full stop) to Gores Mill Road vehicles.

"The traffic lights seem to be achieving their purpose," Ms. Grimm said. "Those of us living on Gores Mill Road, Green Hill Farm Road and surrounding areas feel safe making turns out of Gores Mill Road. I do not understand the necessity for changing the light to a blinker at any time."

The lights flash during off hours because few cars on Gores Mill Road use the intersection after midnight, said Kris Bevans, an SHA spokeswoman.

RTC "We believe there are enough gaps in traffic at night to allow for the flashing lights," Ms. Bevans said. She said the SHA will study the intersection to determine if the lights should be fully operational after midnight.

Ms. Grimm said a fully operational signal is needed because vehicles travel fast on Route 140. "I grant you that the traffic is not much [after midnight], but it can be very rapid. It's frightening."

BARRING STUDENTS: Going to and from school will be safer this year for about 7,000 students who live in the Baltimore area and ride school buses, thanks to a new safety device that has been installed on about 100 local buses.

The Crossing Control Arm, a 6-foot-long device that automatically swings in front of the bus when the driver opens the door, will be a visual reminder for students to walk around the arm and seven to 10 feet in front of the bus.

The arm will lie across the front bumper of the bus when not in use, said Brendy Barr of the National School Bus Service Inc. "This way the driver can see and prevent them [students] from walking directly in front of the bus," she said.

The Crossing Control Arm, a product of the National School Bus Service Inc., will be seen mostly in the suburban areas, because most Baltimore City students use public transportation to and from classes.

An average of 41 U.S. school-age children die in school bus-related accidents each year -- 11 bus occupants and 30 pedestrians, according to statistics from the NSBS.

Many city school buses that carry special education students will

be equipped with the safety device.

BUMPY BUCK: Three weeks ago, we wrote about a new $1 million vehicle being used by the SHA to monitor the quality of state roads. The Automatic Road Analyzer can detect road surface conditions such as cracks, dips, ruts, bumps and roughness.

We received many calls and letters regarding areas and rough roads in Maryland where the ARAN should venture.

However, one reader, David Gilliam of Glen Burnie, particularly caught our attention. He believes the ARAN is nothing more than a waste of state money.

"I suggest that the state purchase a 1991 Buick and save their money on the ARAN," said Mr. Gilliam, an insurance salesman who travels the state extensively.

"This is no knock at the ARAN, but when riding in the Buick one can also detect every bump and rut on the road because it has poor shocks and suspension. Perhaps the ARAN is made by Buick."

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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