Air bag announcement meets apparent apathy Reaction: Consumers have given a ho-hum response to the Department of Transportation's ruling that motorists may request permission to deactivate air bags.

The Intrepid Commuter

December 01, 1997

ONE WEEK after the federal government said it's OK to deactivate air bags with a cutoff switch, an informal poll conducted by automakers and dealers shows that relatively few Americans have expressed interest in switching off the devices.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it received 13,960 calls to its Washington-based consumer hot line (800-424-9393) last week, including about 7,000 from people who wanted the required permission form to install the cutoff switch.

Ford Motor Co. had fewer calls than expected, spokesman Jim Cain reported. Similarly, dealers of several types of cars said few customers had so far made inquiries.

On Nov. 18, the U.S. Department of Transportation said that because of concerns raised by 86 deaths from air bags, it would give permission in certain cases for cutoff switches.

The new rule allows dealerships to install the switches -- for car owners who receive a federal waiver -- after mid-January.

Hot coffee alert on Wyndhurst Avenue

If you drive along Wyndhurst Avenue in Roland Park these days, hold on to your coffee.

On that stretch between Charles Street and Roland Avenue, city Department of Public Works traffic engineers recently installed a series of speed "humps" designed to slow traffic on many streets used as shortcuts.

The only problem is these humps are more like bumps. And there is little warning of their placement.

Pity the poor soul who hits a hump/bump at 30 mph while trying to sip java: The burning results could be more disastrous than the famous McDonald's drive-through scalding.

One Roland Park resident recently likened his Wyndhurst experience to driving over a curb, a jolt your Intrepid One also felt last week during a drive-by inspection.

The problem has created quite a stir at City Hall, and DPW bureaucrats have been sent back to the scene. Word from downtown is that engineers will soon return to Wyndhurst to adjust at least one of the hump/bumps.

Until then, make it iced coffee on Wyndhurst -- or driver beware.

Miracle at Franklin and Park

This being the holiday season, city bureaucrats are celebrating what they term "a miracle" -- repair of "The Crater," the amazing downtown sinkhole that appeared after a gas explosion and fire at Franklin Street and Park Avenue.

Scuba divers were called in to help with the repairs, as were workers from at least six private companies and countless city employees. DPW spokesman Kurt L. Kocher said it's too early to determine just how much overtime taxpayers paid for the repairs he claimed were "a year's worth of work in 20 days."

"This was a massive undertaking which we could not have done so well and quickly had it not been for such goodwill," said DPW chief George G. Balog, who baby-sat the work and gave countless television interviews. "Everybody worked as a team."

Added Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke: "Everybody pulled together and pulled off a miracle. This effort could serve as a national model for cooperation during times of emergency."

Shortcuts

It'll soon be legal to drive 65 mph on the 28-mile stretch of Interstate 95 between the Washington and Baltimore beltways, State Highway Administration officials said last week. The higher speed limit has been stalled by road construction -- even though most drivers already well exceed 65 there. An extra 100 parking spaces are available at the light rail stop in Lutherville. The Mass Transit Administration's $700,000 project at the site has expanded the parking lot from 186 spaces to 286. Prepare for gridlock in downtown Baltimore during Thursday's evening rush, courtesy of street and lane closings for the annual lighting of the Washington Monument, scheduled for 5: 30 p.m. Plan accordingly to detour along Centre, Calvert and Madison streets, and know that there will be no parking allowed on Mount Vernon Place at various times during the day. Charles Street will be closed to traffic in the Mount Vernon neighborhood at various times that day, beginning at 9: 15 a.m.

Pub Date: 12/01/97

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