Small street, big trucks spell woe for residents Aggravation: Neighbors say 18-wheelers making a tight turn heading to a wholesale florist on Castle Street scrape cars, buildings, signs.

The Intrepid Commuter

March 03, 1997

JUST BETWEEN Fells Point and Canton, tiny Castle Street stands as a well-worn monument to change.

If you can find it, that is.

The street sign at Fleet Street has been mangled by huge 18-wheelers, snagged trying to make the narrow turn to deliver cartons of fresh flowers to Chesapeake Wholesale Florists.

The big picture looks like this: modern mode of transportation clashes with old-fashioned alley streets.

It's a problem that has vexed the neighborhood for years, as the big hawgs enter and exit nearby Boston Street.

At Fleet and Castle, residents of the tiny rowhouses frequently rush to their windows once they hear a truck in turning distress. At times, they say, trucks swipe the parked cars along Eastern Avenue and Fleet Street, making matters oh, so nasty.

"They ride on the sidewalk on entering Castle Street, hit the one-way sign and even scraped along the building on the west side of Castle," says Irene Gozdziewski, who lives in the 2000 block of Eastern Ave.

In November, Gozdziewski said she heard a big ruckus at midnight and peeked outside.

"There it was -- a big, big truck trying to squeeze down Castle," she said. "He swung to make the curve and hit my neighbor's truck, broke the mirror. The sign is even uprooted."

Floral warehouse owner Mark Massoni said Castle Street is the only place that trucks -- most arriving from Florida -- can drop off fresh roses, carnations and mums for distribution.

"Before we were here, it was a rat-infested vacant alley," Massoni said. "We have no other way to load and unload this building."

Massoni blames the city for its haphazard street parking allotments in the area and patrons of nearby bars for the tight parking that crimps the trucks' passage.

Meanwhile, city police Officer Mark Armour, of the Southeastern District, told Intrepid he was unaware that problems exist near the warehouse -- even though Gozdziewski said police have been called to the troubled site many times. Armour promised to look into the matter.

Stay tuned.

U.S. safety experts favor cutoff switch on air bags

Here's the latest in the air bag debate: Cutoff switches are more desirable than disabling the entire bag, experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say.

"Faced with an either-or situation, there seems to be a tide of opinion that cutoff switches are the way to go," Ralph Hitchcock, NHTSA's acting associate administrator for research, said last week.

In January, NHTSA issued a written proposal to allow mechanics to disconnect air bags for consumers in response to concerns about deaths caused by the devices. President Clinton has approved the plan.

Last week, though, four former NHTSA administrators attacked that proposal, saying instead that the agency should let automakers install cutoff switches that would let car owners turn air bags on and off.

Air bag technology is changing to limit risk of injury -- and even death -- from the devices. While air bags have saved nearly 1,700 lives, they are blamed for the deaths of 38 children and infants and 23 adults when they deployed in low-speed accidents.

Most of those killed were not wearing seat belts or were using them improperly, and nine infants died when air bags deployed into a rear-facing infant seat on the passenger side. In response, parents owning cars with air bags have been warned to put children in the back seat.

Traffic patterns to shift for Beltway construction

SHORTCUTS: Expect shifts in traffic patterns on the inner and outer loops of the Beltway between the Falls Road and Stevenson Road exits. The traffic flow will change for two miles of the 4-mile reconstruction project as workers construct lanes in a $55 million widening project expected to be completed in fall 1998. Meanwhile, in Towson, the new roundabout at Allegheny Avenue and York Road is well under way.

Pub Date: 3/03/97

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