A place where craters, not mere potholes, reign

The Intrepid Commuter

January 29, 1996

BEEN ON DUKELAND Street between Liberty Heights

Avenue and Gwynns Falls Parkway lately?

No? Then don't.

With craters -- "pothole" is too gentle a word -- of varied shapes and sizes, you'd think that the National Guard had set up camp nearby to engage in bombing exercises.

The stretch is only about half a mile, and it's an adventurous ride.

"It's a lot of weaving and bobbing," said Allison Cillestri, who takes her niece to William H. Lemmel Middle School on Dukeland Street about midway between Liberty Heights and Gwynns Falls. "But, it's inevitable that you're going to hit a pothole. You just can't avoid them."

Your Intrepid One doubted Ms. Cillestri, so we cruised Dukeland Street and somehow survived the trip from Liberty Heights to Gwynns Falls as the front of our low-sitting, Japanese thing often thunked in an exceedingly deep crater.

The next day we did our best at investigative reporting and returned to the minefield armed with a ruler. We measured two craters, one 31 inches by 21 inches and 4 inches deep; the other 37 inches by 30 inches and 5 inches deep.

Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Public Works, said city workers are scurrying to fill all potholes and are repairing about 500 of them a day. She said pothole repairs are driven by resident's calls and as spotted by city highway maintenance crews.

All of that is fine.

But they can't get to Dukeland Street fast enough.

A shoving match over corner rights

Michael White of Catonsville witnessed a frightening and potentially dangerous dispute while he sat at the traffic signal in the eastbound lane of U.S. 40 at Ingleside Avenue near Westview Mall.

He saw an argument and shoving match between two men who appeared to be homeless, both with signs asking for donations and both desiring sole possession of the median strip to approach motorists.

"They started pushing and almost came to blows," Mr. White said. "They were saying they both had the corner and that each of them was there first and that each of them were there yesterday. They both became hot, and with the yelling almost came out into the turn lane. I was worried that one of them might get hit by a car."

He said traffic paused or stopped to watch the pair. A police officer finally separated them, allowing neither to remain at the intersection.

Sgt. Kevin B. Novak of the Baltimore County police had not heard of indigents getting into a "turf war" over a location to approach others for money or food.

He said to move them from intersections would be "counterproduction" because they would soon begin begging again. "Just as long as they're not disturbing the traffic flow," he said.

Training newcomers to find Penn Station

Not everyone is as well-acquainted with Baltimore area roads as your Intrepid One. That's why we were dismayed recently to learn that St. Paul Street -- one of the city's major arteries -- has no signs telling the whereabouts of Pennsylvania Station.

It's easy to assume that everyone knows the train station is between St. Paul and Charles streets just north of Interstate 83. But the city has many newcomers who are lost without the assistance of road signs.

For instance, the Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University have students from throughout the East Coast and all over the world. But try letting a student -- especially a freshman new to town -- find the station to catch Amtrak.

We recently talked to several out-of-state students from both schools who said the train station was somewhat tricky to find.

"You can find it but you've got to have a map or be with someone who knows their way around town," said Karen Nichols, a Hopkins student from New York.

"My roommate drove around and around and couldn't find it until my train was leaving," said Mawk, an MSU freshman from Trenton, N.J. "I just catch a cab to the station now."

Kenneth E. Wiedel Jr., general manager at Penn Station, said more signs aren't posted because Baltimore has two stations for rail commuters -- the other is at Camden Yards -- and Penn Station signs might cause confusion. Camden Yards handles only Maryland Rail Commuter service, while Penn Station carries Amtrak and MARC commuters.

Ms. Barnes said signs will be placed near the station on both Charles and St. Paul streets.

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