Alert Baltimore motorists confront signs of the times

Intrepid Commuter

July 22, 1996

JUST ABOVE A SIGN that warns drivers against making a U-turn at North Avenue and Charles Street, another sign is perched bearing this demand: "Where's My Money."

Near the Walters Art Gallery at Charles and Centre streets, a bizarre placard reads, "Blowing Plastic Bags."

Near the University of Baltimore, on a signpost at Charles and West Oliver streets, a poetic tribute to love, loss and Charm City is expressed on yet another sign:

"whosoever loves or leaves me

whomsoever i will leave or love

this stalwart gray city holds me

and i am soothed"

Has Baltimore been invaded by brazen street sign maniacs? Is this one step up from spray-painted graffiti?

Officials of the city's Department of Public Works last week were baffled. Spokesman Kurt Kocher said his best guess is that signage from Artscape, the city's gala art festival held this weekend, is possibly to blame.

"A couple of individuals are getting out of hand and putting signs illegally on our posts," Kocher said. "That's not allowed. Period. We appreciate good fun and art, but it has to be taken into consideration that these signs are there for a purpose for the safety of those in the city. If people are going to express themselves in terms of art, they cannot do it in any kind of way that is going to endanger the safety of the public."

Kocher pledged that city traffic engineers would strip away the unique signs ASAP.

Entrepreneur forms his own brew crew

Rick Hotchkiss was once a MARC commuter who, when he finally settled into a seat on the train after dashing to the station, had only one thought.

"I always wanted a decent cup of coffee," he said.

Now a Baltimore entrepreneur, Hotchkiss, 41, recently got a caffeinelike jolt of an idea: Why not invent an at-your-seat coffee service for Maryland Rail Commuter service trains?

The idea percolated. Then it brewed into a "market test" on a MARC train last month. Wearing a 36-pound backpack that made him look like Buzz Lightyear, Hotchkiss and a companion boarded the 7: 05 a.m. MARC at Camden Yards and offered a cup-o'-joe for $1.50. Walking through the train, one collected money while the other dispensed java from a 3-gallon tank inside the insulated spaceman's backpack.

With unlimited refills, fresh cream and even a choice between Sweet'n Low and Equal, the concept was a hit. And the coffee was good stuff, too -- Starbucks' blend and Marriott's gourmet bean.

Hotchkiss acknowledged last week that he could have sold more coffee if there had not been a steamy Baltimore heat wave going on. But he promised to try to resume the service in the fall with some possible additions: decaf, hot chocolate, tea and even bagels. He dreams of one day expanding the at-your-seat service for commuters in other cities, such as Boston or Chicago.

"It was nice because you see the same faces every morning, so people become your friends," he said. "It's nice to be able to deliver something that brightens other people's mornings just a tad."

I-95, I-97 link to open this fall

The nearly eight-mile stretch of Route 100 between Interstates 95 and 97 is scheduled to open to commuters this fall, State Highway Administration officials say. The new four- and six-lane road -- decorated with a grassy median strip -- is part of a $100 million project to link Anne Arundel and Howard counties via Route 100. The project is being built under five contracts with the goal of easing east-west traffic flow to the businesses that are overtaking the once-sleepy corridor. One portion is already complete: A two-mile section between I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway opened this spring.

After I-95 and I-97 are joined, the project will move forward again -- this time linking I-95 to U.S. 29, SHA officials promised last week. That major east-west merger is expected to take place just as the millennium passes.

Shortcuts

Hats off to those who planted wildflowers and other gardens in medians across Maryland. Two particularly beautiful sites now bearing colorful glory are along Interstate 70 West and a patch of lavender sage at Charles Street and Bellona Avenue.

Gridlock Alley update: Meadowbrook Aquatic Center General Manager John Cadigan has written to city public works chief George G. Balog seeking relief for the traffic mess at Smith Avenue and Falls Road. Cadigan suggests the city split the eastbound lane of the Smith Avenue Bridge into two, and add a stop sign on Smith Avenue for drivers leaving Fresh Fields, Starbucks and Smith & Hawkin. Balog had not yet responded to the June 26 letter.

Pub Date: 7/22/96

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