Cold comfort as nature calls on an outside line Restrooms: Patrons who need to answer that call are put on hold at the Owings Mills stop, whose lack of public facilities sends a rude message: If you have to go, you have to go -- somewhere else.

The Intrepid Commuter

November 25, 1996

How do you spell relief?

At the MTA station in Owings Mills, with restrooms locked to most and open only to a privileged few, it's a quick trip to the nearby woods.

That's where patrons of public transportation say they have to relieve themselves if nature calls. This is a disgraceful situation, a public humiliation and a health hazard.

Metro rider Kevin Murray of Reisterstown once had such an urgency to use the facilities at the Owings Mills station that he bluffed being a diabetic in need of an insulin injection to get in. The ploy worked on a Mass Transit Administration security guard.

At other times, Murray says he has used a landscaped lot near the front of the station where he usually has company -- mostly guys discussing sporting events like the recent Mike Tyson fight or Raven trivia.

"It's embarrassing," Murray told Intrepid One last week. "At any given time, people are driving in and out of that place, so you could be being watched. That's above and beyond the fact that it's embarrassing to have to go [to the bathroom] in the woods."

MTA spokeswoman Nanci Philips said last week that she was unaware that patrons had taken to the woods at the Owings Mills station.

"We would discourage people from doing that because if they are in public view, it's a violation of the law and they run the chance of being cited by MTA police," she said.

Philips added that the agency does not offer public restrooms for security reasons. The restrooms in the stations are there for MTA employees only, and those employees are taught to use their judgment in allowing the public to use the MTA restroom "only in dire emergencies," she said.

All this is of little comfort to Murray, who said his commute to Baltimore from Reisterstown lasts nearly two hours. He said his walk in the woods soon will become more uncomfortable with winter's pending chill.

Vents for pipeline pose no dangers, company says

On his way home from a job as a car salesman in Laurel, Steven Eisenberg drives past a series of four-foot plastic spikes that stick out of the ground near his Owings Mills townhouse. Some are white, some are orange and still others have a small hook at the top that makes them look like candy canes.

Closer inspection reveals that these spikes are vents for a natural gas pipeline that runs 5 feet under the road. This prompted Eisenberg to seek advice on whether the candy canes pose a danger to drivers or residents of the northwest Baltimore County community.

Intrepid has learned that the spikes were installed by the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Corp. of Houston, and present no threat to the public, said Transcontinental spokesman Chris Stockton. The spikes are attached to a casing that surrounds the gas pipe and serve as a vent and a detector if the pipe ever leaks, Stockton said.

"If a car hits one, nothing's going to happen," Stockton said.

As a footnote, the pipeline that runs through Owings Mills is part of a 1,832-mile stretch from Hidalgo County in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas to 134th Street in Manhattan.

The pipe burrows beneath 12 states to supply natural gas to residents of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The gas that runs through it comes from on-shore wells in Texas and off-shore rigs in Louisiana and Texas, Stockton said.

Uprooted white oak tree gets a place in history

State Highway Administration engineers last week uprooted a splendid, mature white oak tree that sheltered part of Maryland Route 450. The tree was removed in the name of progress -- part of prep work for a $35 million reconstruction project to widen Annapolis Road and install a 20-foot median.

But all was not lost. The Ray Lee Trucking Co. stepped in and hauled the wood to the Fort McHenry Shipyard where the oak will be used to help restore the USS Constellation.

BGE reimburses motorist for car damage from plate

It was late at night when Bob Posterli drove his 1988 Jaguar over a steel plate covering a gas line repair under the pavement of Front and Lincoln avenues in Lutherville.

"It was like hitting a brick wall," Posterli said. "The car kept pulling to the left."

After a trip to the repair shop, Posterli's suspicions were confirmed: The frame was bent, and mechanics had to remove and replace the left front lower arm, pivot shaft, spring plate, arm bushing and lower ball joint. Cost for the parts: $660. And the labor: $401.

Shocked, Posterli turned sleuth. He found out that Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. was responsible for leaving the plate in an uneven position on the road before closing the repair for the night.

After a brief investigation, the company agreed to reimburse Posterli for the $1,060 in damages, said BGE spokesman Art Slusark.

Damages caused by the steel road plates are a problem the company deals with on a case-by-case basis, Slusark said. Any damages less than $5,000 are handled by the customer relations department and more than $5,000 are handled by the lawyers.

Shortcuts

Update on Gridlock Alley, that frustrating little thoroughfare in Mount Washington near Fresh Fields and Smith & Hawkin: City Department of Public Works crews will be re-evaluating the timing of the turning green arrows at this chronically snarled intersection after an avalanche of complaints from commuters along the Falls Road corridor. DPW spokesman Kurt Kocher promised Intrepid: "The department has evaluated the timing and will re-evaluate the timing so that it performs optimally for all traffic."

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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