JFX phone leaves driver cut off Emergency: A spot check of roadside phones on the Jones Falls Expressway finds many inoperable.

The Intrepid Commuter

December 02, 1996

STRANDED by a tire blowout on the Jones Falls Expressway at 8 p.m. Nov. 10, David Falck was relieved to see that his mishap happened near one of the many roadside emergency phones.

But hold the line.

The phone was broken.

"My euphoria quickly faded to frustration as the phone turned out to be completely inoperable," Falck says, of the phone just south of the Cold Spring Lane exit. "Instead of obtaining assistance, I was left feeling very helpless and wondering what to do next."

Your Intrepid One set out last week to test some of the emergency phones along the JFX -- a perilous field trip that at times seemed to threaten turning your wheelster into Thanksgiving leftovers.

The result was astounding: Many of the phones and emergency call boxes are dead. In some instances, the receivers dangle off the hook. Only once did a human voice answer.

While the phones are well advertised with red and blue signs, some sit in dangerous locations -- like the one on the southbound side just before the 28th Street exit. If you break down there, start praying. Traffic speeds around a curve in front of the phone, setting up a potential wipeout.

Baltimore Department of Public Works spokesman Kurt Kocher said the department spot-checks the 13 phones on Interstate 83 and promised to reconnect the lines and revive the boxes.

He explained that a dispatcher known as "Control One" answers an average of five calls each day from the JFX ranging from debris in the road to accident reports. Control One is on duty 24 hours a day, Kocher said.

But that is of little consequence to Falck. "The phones are a great idea, but they can give a false sense of security unless they are maintained in proper working order."

Arrow points the way, with one exception

A trip to Timonium the other day left Intrepid tapping her fingers on the steering wheel in anticipation. The Timonium Road at Green Spring Drive intersection is green-arrow city -- unless you want to hang a left from the eastbound Timonium lane.

Drivers have long complained about this intersection -- saying in some instances they waited for seven minutes before a break in the traffic flow allowed a shot at Green Spring Drive. One driver said the only way he got through was to make a kamikaze dash across the intersection just as the light rail gates lowered across the road.

All this while watching cars in the other three left-turn lanes at the intersection zip through their turns with the help of a green turn-arrow.

Steve Weber, of the Baltimore County traffic office, said Timonium Road's eastbound-less arrow has been studied in the past. A new probe will soon commence, traffic coordinator Craig Forrest told Intrepid One last week. Maybe the eastbound lane will get its green arrow in time for the holidays. Until then, watch out for the trains.

Send air bag opinions to Intrepid's hot line

IN SEARCH OF: Opinions on those controversial air bags. Comments may be published in a column. Call the Intrepid hot line at 783-1800, Ext. 4305. From Anne Arundel County, dial 268-7736.

Cost of gasoline rises, survey by AAA shows

Tuck away a few dollars before holiday shopping this year because you'll need it at the pump.

A recent survey of 30 Maryland gas stations showed the cost of regular self-serve gasoline has increased 3 cents over last month's cost to $1.28 per gallon. Premium self-serve has increased nearly 3 cents, to $1.45 per gallon.

The survey, completed by AAA of Maryland, also showed a 2-cent increase in full-serve and a 4-cent jump in the cost of diesel fuel.

Shortcuts

Mea culpas to upscale garden shop Smith & Hawken, misspelled last week by the Intrepid One. And take a garden spade to the knuckles of whoever painted a sign directing traffic to the Mount Washington garden shop along Gridlock Alley, or the Smith Avenue bridge. That misspelling reads: "Smith & Hawkins" while the true name is advertised nearby in huge green and white letters. Sticklers wince at the wheel. Between January and October, more than 4,700 trucks were taken off Maryland highways for driving illegally, many found to be carrying too heavy a load, the Maryland Transportation Authority reports. Those penalties also include $1.7 million in fines for the infractions. Recently, a stop of 106 trucks along U.S. 40 in Rosedale sidelined 59 trucks and raised more than $1,000 in fines for the state's General Fund.

Pub Date: 12/02/96

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