Driving in circles to get to other side

Intrepid Commuter

September 25, 1995

HERE'S A quickie: Where in Baltimore does it take a minute and a half and a most circuitous route to literally drive across the street?

Give up? In the first block of E. Hughes St. in South Baltimore if you want to drive to the first block of W. Hughes St.

Just ask James D. Hettleman. He lives in the 700 block of S. Charles St. and parks on a lot adjacent to the first block of E. Hughes.

When he exits the parking lot on East Hughes, he is faced with a sign at Charles Street instructing him to turn right only.

But he doesn't want to go right. He wants either to go straight or make a left turn to get to nearby Hanover Street, which facilitates his connection to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and his job in Washington.

He must either drive a bit down Charles Street, make a quick (and illegal) U-turn, come back up Charles Street and turn onto Hughes Street. Or, follow Charles Street about a block to Hill Street, pull in, back out and head back up Charles Street to Hughes Street.

Signs routing traffic right on Charles Street were erected in 1988 to avoid heavy traffic on Hughes Street and prevent backups in the Federal Hill and Otterbein neighborhoods, said Officer Lawrence M. Davis of the police department's traffic investigation unit.

Officer Davis said drivers routinely disobey the signs -- and risk a $50 ticket and one point on their record. He ticketed 10 drivers in one day for the offense.

Your Intrepid Investigator camped at Charles and Hughes streets for about 30 minutes last week and saw many cars zip across Charles Street on Hughes Street.

"I moved to Federal Hill to make my commute to Washington more convenient," Mr. Hettleman said. "I haven't found that to be true because I can't even cross the street."

Confusion overhead

Motorists who travel on southbound Route 924 in Harford County and wish to turn onto Route 24 south may be slightly confused by the road sign at the intersection. But only slightly.

The overhead sign directs two lanes of traffic to turn left. What's confusing is the diagram that accompanies the sign.

Beneath one arrow in the sign, it says vehicles may travel only on Route 24; beneath the other arrow motorists are told that both lanes must go toward Interstate 95.

"When you look at that sign you think they are both available for you," said Ralph Haines of Edgewood. "But they aren't."

Mr. Haines said he has had several near accidents when motorists get in the Route 24 lane and want to go to I-95.

Chuck Brown of the State Highway Administration said new overhead signs will be erected on Route 924 before the end of the year to ensure motorists have no confusion about which lane to travel. He added that road lanes will be repainted.

Turned off

Elizabeth Walter of Catonsville asks the intriguing question that motorists who travel the busy intersection of Maiden Choice Lane and Wilkens Avenue have long pondered -- Why, oh why is there no left-turn lane at Wilkens Avenue for traffic going north on Maiden Choice, when all the other directions of travel have them?

Heavy southbound traffic on Maiden Choice Lane makes for a long wait to turn onto Wilkens. So why not a left-turn lane?

Well, Mrs. Walter has stumped the Intrepid One. A mighty feat.

So we once again turned to Chuck Brown of the State Highway Administration for a little info. Chuck, if you please.

"That situation has merit," Mr. Brown said.

In past years, traffic turning west onto Wilkens Avenue from Maiden Choice Lane in Arbutus has not been heavy enough to warrant a turn lane or arrow at the signal, Mr. Brown said.

But he also said that traffic engineers will do a traffic analysis at the intersection to see if one is now needed.

Tire Samaritan

We got an interesting note recently from a man who had a flat tire on Interstate 95 near the Catonsville (Rolling Road/Interstate 195) exit in Baltimore County.

Robert Horn, 35, of Columbia, had never had a flat before and was unsure how to fix one. So he waited for nearly an hour for a Good Samaritan to stop and help.

Finally, a young woman -- in a business suit, heels, with perfume -- stopped and asked if he wanted to use her car phone to call for help. When he told her what the problem was, she took off her heels, donned a pair of sneakers and changed the tire.

Within 15 minutes his tire was fixed and she was gone.

"She was a godsend. I felt a little embarrassed of not knowing how to change a tire, but I couldn't have asked for a better person to come along and help me out," Mr. Horn said.

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