From SHA, still no pay Guardrail: A construction worker says the state junks damaged guardrails, but the SHA says the driver who was billed for hitting one shouldn't expect his $1,200 back.

The Intrepid Commuter

December 08, 1997

LAST MONTH, Intrepid reported the saga of Raymond Farmer, who three years ago crashed into a guardrail on Interstate 695 after falling asleep at the wheel.

Farmer complained that he received a $1,200 bill from the State Highway Administration to repair the steel rail, which he reluctantly paid. Only problem was Farmer recently noticed that SHA workers had removed his rail to make way for construction one year after he paid dearly to have it repaired.

Farmer, seeking a refund, turned to Intrepid One.

But an SHA spokeswoman explained that no refund would be forthcoming because Farmer did indeed wreck public property -- for which he should pay. Such is common billing practice at SHA, which bills either the individual or the driver's insurance company.

State officials said workers had "relocated" the rail to another site.

But let's look further.

Last week, your wheelster received a call from a construction worker hired by the SHA who said the agency's practice of reusing those rails was "a big fib."

"For a matter of fact, what happens is the contractor takes the guardrail down and disposes of it," the anonymous worker told Intrepid. "It never gets recycled. I've seen it done. I've been there. So they're telling the man a big fib. I feel sorry for the guy."

Intrepid wondered: Could it be that SHA is unjustly charging insurance companies and individuals thousands of dollars for damaged guardrails?

Spokeswoman Fran Counihan bristled while explaining the situation.

"Not every single one gets saved," she acknowledged. "The fact remains that [Farmer's] property damage was done, and we consider it his responsibility to pay for the damage. The guardrail was replaced -- whether for a day, a week or an hour."

Stop sign often ignored at Towson intersection

In southeast Towson, traffic frequently clogs the intersection of Virginia and Pennsylvania avenues. Sometimes, the intersection is the site of near-collisions -- as experienced by many who live in a senior high-rise on one corner.

Part of this problem stems from the fact that a part of Fairmount Avenue is one-way northbound, limiting traffic flow east of the suburban hub. But the main source of woe is the need for a traffic signal at this intersection -- the stop sign is frequently ignored.

It's been the subject of a recent study by county traffic engineers, who say changes are in the works. They plan to add some sort of extra measures at the intersection by winter, said Steve Weber, chief of the Baltimore County traffic engineering division.

Until then, proceed with caution.

Timing of railroad gates in Hunt Valley criticized

Light rail service extended to Hunt Valley on Sept. 9 -- but it seems complaints may have cropped up at McCormick Road and Schilling Circle.

"The railroad gates are timed incorrectly for southbound trains," complained John B. Dixon, secretary of Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Company.

"The gates are down and set a significantly long time before the slow-moving train arrives to cross. All these things combined makes the wait for southbound trains at McCormick Road grade crossing very long and frustrating for automobile commuters (I will not mention the delay it causes to emergency apparatus waiting to cross the tracks)."

A quick inspection of this problem last week turned up waits of 30 and 40 seconds as trains crossed McCormick and Shilling heading for Hunt Valley Mall and Glen Burnie's Cromwell station. Even in our fast-paced society, that hardly achieves the kind of status that would rankle a type-A personality.

Nevertheless, Mass Transit Administration spokesman Frank Fulton pledged to dispatch the agency's engineering division northward to investigate the Hunt Valley-gate.

Stay tuned.

Shortcuts

Transit police will collect new, unwrapped toys at Key Bridge and the Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry tunnels from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It's part of the Maryland Transportation Authority's holiday collection for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots campaign. The toys will be distributed to needy children in Northeast Baltimore. About 40,500 toys have have been collected in six years. Dec. 1 through New Year's Day 1998, AAA of Maryland will offer free towing to motorists who have had too much holiday cheer. Operation "Tipsy Tow" dispatches a tow truck to haul drivers and their vehicles home up to 15 miles, free. Call 1-800-AAA-HELP for service.

Pub Date: 12/08/97

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