Smooth strip, squiggly stripes Roadwork: A newly paved section of Park Heights Avenue displays center lines that are more than a little off center.

Intrepid Commuter

August 12, 1996

IT MUST HAVE BEEN a great party last night," said John J. Heyn as he drove on newly paved Park Heights Avenue just south of Greenspring Valley Road.

That's where drivers are treated to a smooth ride -- and potentially blurred vision as they try to adhere to the pattern of the bold yellow center lines. Your Intrepid One visited the site last week and found the road lines resemble an EKG reading, in some places zigging and zagging so wildly they look like rickrack.

Heyn of Owings Mills says he drives the avenue and chuckles, thinking State Highway Administration muckety-mucks must look at the work performed by private contractor Bryn Awel Corp. and say "Oops!"

But look for those lines to be straightened soon. The two-mile repavement project, which cost $460,000, will be restriped, says a SHA spokeswoman. It seems the wavy center lines are merely yellow tape that was plastered to the pavement by workers after dark.

Those same workers plan to rip the tape up this week and replaced it with painted stripes.

Let's hope they party after the brushes dry.

Tossed cigarette unlikely to endanger another vehicle

Is it possible for a cigarette butt thrown out of a car window to ignite another vehicle?

That's the burning question for reader Thomas E. Dolan who wondered: "I have owned vehicles that leaked one flammable fluid or another which obviously raises the risk of an engine fire. Combine that with a cigarette's capacity to maintain combustion and a potentially dangerous situation could be created."

Well, extinguish your fears. An automotive safety expert at the American Automobile Association says the chances of such a blaze are nil.

Danger could occur, however, if that butt were to blow into an the window of an open vehicle, startling or burning the driver or a passenger, said Dave Willis, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Safety.

Accidents frequent at tricky pair of ramps

Eight accident investigations have been conducted since January at the dangerous duo of ramps in Owings Mills where Interstates 695 and 795 entwine, Maryland State Police report.

These roads are tricky because drivers must navigate a couple of deep curves in their quest to head north to Reisterstown and points beyond.

The drive recently became a nightmare for one commuter who lost control of her car in rainy weather on the ramp from the Beltway's outer loop, slammed into a guard rail and then into a light pole. While a state trooper was writing the report on that accident, the trooper and the motorist watched as two other cars fishtailed out of control at that same spot.

Sgt. Leigh Maddox of the State Police blamed the high rate of accidents on lead-footed drivers and warned last week that "drivers need to slow down" on the ramps.

In the meantime, state highway officials said they will take a look at the design of the intersections.

Detour gridlock predicted when school traffic resumes

Take two aspirin before driving the school car pool around the Falls Road bridge-Interstate 83 detour. This is the sage advice of Charisse Wernecke, director of finance at Boy's Latin School, who predicts drivers will experience a near migraine from the gridlock expected at Old Court and Falls roads once school begins.

What you'll have is Ruxton motorists detoured to Falls Road south combined with those from the plush valley suburbs all headed to the community of private schools in the Roland Park-Charles Street area.

With Old Court Road bridge expected to be closed until school is almost out next spring, Wernecke's concerns are warranted.

State highway crews, who designed the detour, may offer a bit of relief by retiming the traffic light at Falls and Old Court, said Fran Counihan, an SHA spokeswoman. But until the jam starts, there is no way to know how bad it will be. Stay tuned.


Why do police have to warn drivers about a crackdown on speeding? Reader Jean Britt wonders what will happen next month after an intense, 30-day patrol of the Reisterstown Road corridor. "To me, it's like saying OK, now you can go back to your normal pattern of speeding," she laments. Raven-mania has led to the repair of rundown streets and curbs surrounding Memorial Stadium. On a broader scale, the city said work crews have filled 108,131 potholes since the Blizzard of '96 -- nearly double the 54,755 potholes plugged from January through July last year.

Keep in touch

You can mail, send by fax or call in questions or comments for the Intrepid Commuter. Here's how: Mail letters -- The Sun, 1300 Bellona Ave., Lutherville 21093. Fax line -- (410) 494-2916. Call Sundial, The Baltimore Sun's telephone information service. 783-1800, enter Ext. 4305. From Anne Arundel County, dial 268-7736.

Pub Date: 8/12/96

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