Rough roads ahead on the JFX Enter at your own risk: Simply put, Interstate 83 (its route number and often its speed limit) is a mess.

The Intrepid Commuter

March 04, 1996

DRIVEN ON the Jones Falls Expressway in the past few days?

We know you couldn't have driven in the northbound lanes from late Friday until early yesterday because the speedway was closed so workers could replace steel girders on the 29th Street bridge.

And, correct us if we're wrong, but we assume that most rational people wouldn't voluntarily travel the southbound lanes, with their countless potholes, patchy terrain and Richard Petty-wannabes.

Simply put, Interstate 83 (its route number and often its speed limit) is a mess.

"Especially coming south. Once you get past the Pepsi sign, all three lanes just drop and the road changes texture," said Ralph Collins, a downtown worker who lives in Timonium. "Not only do the lanes just drop, but the gravel has come up and makes it uneven."

A portion of the bottom of the 29th Street bridge, which crosses the JFX, was struck about a year ago and all of the northbound lanes must close for the girders to be replaced, said Vanessa C. Pyatt, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

OK. But why not just close a lane or two from, say, midnight to 6 a.m., for a week or two instead of closing the entire shebang for a whole weekend?

"This is not the type of work you can just start and stop," Ms. Pyatt said. "They'll be working around the clock, to do this continuously. This is the most efficient way to get it done."

With some road projects -- such as reparing the Calvert and St. Paul street bridges over the JFX -- closing a single lane is best because a structure is being repaired or refurbished, Ms. Pyatt said.

As for potholes, city road crews regularly patch them, Ms. Pyatt said. A resurfacing program for many city streets, including the JFX, will begin next month, she added.

We realize that Pleasant Street is but a small passageway between the major streets of Calvert and St. Paul. It's an uphill grade of little more than 100 yards and, in all probability, is one of downtown's most forgotten streets.

But wouldn't it be nice if some lane indicators -- either painted on the road or otherwise -- were offered so that eastbound traffic does not collide with westbound traffic?

None of the three lanes has indicators and often westbound traffic occupies all three lanes. The only road markings are faint lines that aren't easily visible.

It's the left lane that causes confusion. It's an eastbound lane that directs traffic into the Mercy Medical Center parking garage or emergency room and does not exit onto Calvert Street.

Ms. Pyatt said Pleasant Street was resurfaced last fall, and the road stripings have not been replaced. New stripings are scheduled to be installed next month.

Meanwhile, she said, the city is studying ways to end the confusion on Pleasant Street.

Speeders' heaven is found on stretch of U.S. 1

We wrote last week of the best place to open up a new car to see how fast it can go. We suggested the stretch of Perring Parkway between Belvedere Avenue and McClean Boulevard as being speeders' heaven.

Now we've found a new spot that is a wonderful place to test your driving and slalom skills: the stretch of U.S. 1 between Mountain Road in Harford County and Mount Vista Road in Baltimore County.

It's hilly, winding and a place where even the suggestion of a speed trap never crosses one's mind. Ken Spoerl, who lives in Bel Air travels the road frequently and watches from the right lane as motorists zoom by.

"Forget about the 40 mph speed limit through Kingsville -- what a laugh -- it's more like 55 mph or higher," Mr. Spoerl said. "Harford and Baltimore County could fill their coffers a little bit if they enforced the speed limit in this stretch of highway."

We took our Japanese-brand vehicle (which is often incapable of exceeding 50 mph) to this speedway in hopes that if we floored it we might reach 55 mph.

But even at its 53 mph top speed, motorists roared past or rode our bumper or gave us dirty looks -- and this was while cruising in the right lane for slower traffic.

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