What to do if shrub blocks view Obstructions: Shrubs, trees and other obstructions often prevent drivers from seeing clearly. State highway and local traffic officials offer numbers to call to report such problems.

Intrepid Commuter

July 29, 1996

IN NORWOOD HEIGHTS, a small community near Baltimore's southwestern border, drivers on Beechfield Avenue need X-ray goggles to pass through safely.

That's because a huge, overgrown shrub decorates a corner on Beechfield -- shady and beautiful to look at unless you're driving, of course. Thomas Millenburg Jr., a retired export manager for a grain company, recently complained to your Intrepid One about this problem.

Each time Millenburg heads to Norwood Heights to visit his sister-in-law, that particular shrub hinders his safe passage. He says it should be "severely pruned or eliminated entirely before an accident happens."

Intrepid receives volumes of similar reports about all kinds of obstructions on highways, roads and streets.

One letter dated July 8, signed simply by "A Wife," addressed the problem broadly: "I am concerned about all the tree branches and overgrown shrubs that block traffic signs. In neighborhoods, stop signs are blocked from view. On country roads, speed limit signs and road name signs are blocked. On super highways, all types of signs are blocked."

To help trim this overgrown problem, state highway and local traffic officials urge drivers to call and report trouble spots. For roads and highways maintained by the state, they can use the 1-800-323-6742 hot line -- a number that averages about 500 reports per year, said Susan O'Brien, a State Highway Administration spokeswoman.

Each Baltimore-area jurisdiction's traffic engineers field complaints and concerns, too. In Baltimore County, calls to 887-3554 will bring swift action, pledged traffic engineer Steve Weber. For problems in the city, call its 24-hour complaint line at 396-8111.

As for the super shrub on Beechfield, bureaucrats at the city Department of Public Works last week promised an inspection. "We'll have our guys look at it and take care of it immediately," said spokesman Kurt Kocher.

Like Dracula, they only work at night

Near Golden Ring Mall at the busy intersection of Route 7 and Rossville Boulevard, rows of orange- and white-striped barrels and the equipment needed for a mega highway construction project appear to sit idly at the roadside day in and day out.

"There is never any work taking place," a reader complained to Intrepid. "There are just canisters everywhere."

It seems the construction work, there and at many other sites in the state, is a night-only task, State Highway Administration officials say. Like Dracula, this project comes alive only after dark when certain lanes are closed for construction -- only to open just before daybreak at 5 a.m. This particular job entails "intersection improvements and signalization," -- which in everyday speak means new intersections and traffic signals.

The $700,000 project started at the end of July last year and is expected to be completed this fall. Soon, the crowning touch will occur, says O'Brien, as workers pour a road surface containing asphalt that requires a continuous 60-degree, dry temperature to dry correctly.

Wonder if Crabtown's infamous dawg days (and nights) will cooperate. Commuters heading home along Charles Street near Greater Baltimore Medical Center were treated to some roadside theater Wednesday evening.

The drama involved opposing groups on the abortion issue, picketing the hospital or each other near the entrance to the GBMC driveway.

The protest marked the fifth year of picketing for Defend Life members, who show up at GBMC every Wednesday to protest during the rush period of 5 p.m. to 6: 30 p.m.

The anniversary, though, brought out supporters of both sides of the sensitive issue. One side posted a sign for drivers, "Warning: Religious Bigots Ahead," while the opposing side walked up and down Charles Street holding red "Stop Abortion" signs.

Intersection gets 'C' for caution

The report card is in for that take-your-life-into-your-own- hands intersection of Charles Street, Bellona Avenue and Nightingale Way, with the site given a dubious grade of "C."

That's the rating of State Highway Administration crews that staked out the crossroad in Lutherville that daily presents a Russian roulette challenge for drivers.

So engineers have started to do their homework to bring up the score. They soon will add Interstate 83 to the sign for the Interstate 695 West entrance from northbound Charles Street, in hopes of coaxing drivers to use the cloverleaf there instead of the complicated intersection also used to reach the Beltway's Outer Loop.

"I think if we mark that and encourage more folks to take the loop, the traffic will decrease. It'll certainly help the situation," says Dave Malkowski, a chief SHA engineer. Then, it's on to study hall. Malkowski says he plans to seek funding this week to hire a consultant to investigate the daunting intersection. The study will be presented to community leaders in historic Lutherville and Towson next spring.

School's out, turn on red; Road projects

SHORTCUTS: Two private road contractors started major projects in Baltimore last week. The resurfacing of Cold Spring Lane from Roland Avenue to Kernwood Avenue and the resurfacing of Hawkins Point Road from Ordnance Road to Fort Smallwood Road are expected to be completed early next year. The total cost is $1.36 million and traffic flow is not expected to be interrupted during the projects. If you're at a city intersection that says "No Turn on Red on School Days," feel free to make that turn now that school is recessed for the summer, city traffic officers say. But don't try it after Labor Day.

Pub Date: 7/29/96

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