It's still slow going on city streets Snow banks, single lanes test patience, pose danger

January 17, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

In the 2900 and 3000 blocks of St. Paul St. yesterday, more than a dozen cars were parked diagonally to the curb, their rear ends indifferently angled toward motorists who slogged single-file downtown.

And with no space for wheels on North Calvert Street's icy sidewalks, Bridget Newman pushed a stroller along the street, at all times keeping her body between her 2-year-old, Don, and oncoming traffic.

More than a week after the Blizzard of '96, northbound Calvert and southbound St. Paul -- two of the main streets into and out of downtown Baltimore -- still held just one lane of traffic in some places yesterday, posing danger and drive-time delays as the city returned to work after last week's storms.

A survey of the two streets from downtown to 33rd Street showed the lingering effects of the severe winter weather. The Sun found -- among other things -- double-parking next to snow banks, pedestrians walking on the road and a moving van waiting at a bus stop.

"It's dangerous," Ms. Newman, 32, said as she pushed home from the store. "You can't take a stroller on the sidewalk. So I walk in such a way so that a car will hit me instead of my son."

City officials defended the condition of the two streets, where angry residents and drivers said that their once-patient hearts have become as hard as the icy roads.

Adrienne Barnes, public information officer for the Department of Public Works, said the two streets were not cleared all the way to the curb because city plowers feared they might cover sidewalks and hit parked cars and parking meters.

She said towing cars from busy thoroughfares such as Calvert and St. Paul may be the only way to solve the problem.

"We're getting a bad rap. We're working around the clock," Ms. Barnes said. "We're not getting cooperation from drivers."

But that excuse doesn't work in the 2600 block of N. Calvert. In a stretch without parked cars, the plowed snow extended about 8 feet off the curb.

That area of road includes a bus stop, where children waiting for a ride to school yesterday morning played on the ice and sometimes slipped into traffic, one resident said.

"You'd think they'd have at least thought about cleaning off the bus stop," said Cassandra Marshall. "With the kids this morning it was scary."

Ms. Marshall, 37, had her role in slowing northbound traffic. She had commandeered the bus stop for the moving van that took her artwork, furniture and other belongings to her new home in Pennsylvania yesterday.

But in an effort to reduce the impact on traffic, she said, she had the movers arrive at 10:30 a.m. -- after morning rush-hour.

Still, with the van parked there, only one car at a time could head north.

"So far, we've been lucky," the marketing manager said about 1 p.m. "There's no been no honking horns, no bad words yelled at the movers."

On St. Paul, drivers reported that road conditions had turned five-minute trips into 20-minute odysseys. Marjoleine Kars, a history professor, said she decided to work at home yesterday because of traffic delays.

"And parking is difficult enough here anyway," Ms. Kars said. "If we have to wait till the snow melts, it'll be a long time."

The narrowest part of either street was St. Paul's 2200 block, where snow covered one lane and autos parked on either side of the street blocked two more. Near the intersection with 23rd Street, a sleek black sports car with Michigan plates was double-parked beside a white Buick Skylark, still snowbound from last week's storms.

Back up St. Paul, between 31st Street and the stoplight at 29th Street, musician Dennis Davis was one of the diagonally parked.

Mr. Davis, 54, said that unplowed snow and ice on the street made parallel parking difficult and that he didn't have much fear of tow trucks. If he didn't hold the space for his girlfriend, he said, someone else would take it.

"It's just survival out here," he said as he sat in his gray compact Ford. "That's all this is."

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